The city of St. James has opted to forgo utility shut offs this month due to threat of coronavirus to help those affected by this pandemic. City officials held a Facebook Live meeting on Friday, March 20, to update the public about how the pandemic will affect citizens in the coming weeks.
“As far as the utilities go, in talking with the utility department we’ve decided to forgo shutoffs for this month and any late fees, charges, and anything like that. Next month, we’ll reevaluate it as we move along to see how this pandemic plays out,” Mayor Rick Krawiecki explained. “We feel safety is more important and people have access to hot water and things like that.”
He added the city is working on a payment plan to help customers stay current on their bills during this time when more people are working from home and using more utilities than they normally do. “We don’t want people to get too far behind on their utility bills so we want to continue to work with them. We are a small community and we want to work together,” Krawiecki said.
Krawiecki said the city recognizes the importance of keeping services available as citizens take extra precautions to wash their hands and keep their homes sanitized, especially senior citizens. The city encourages to pay their bill as soon as they can to minimize the burden next month, but the city will be working with customers needing to partially pay. Payments can be made at the utility office, which will remain open, or through the drop boxes at city hall, located at 100 South Jefferson Street, or through the drive-through window during regular hours of operation.
Online payments are also an easy way for customers to pay their utility bill without the need to come in person. Sign up and online bill pay can be completed at http://utilitybillpay.stjamesmo.org. If a customer needs assistance, contact the offices at 573-265-7011, extension 5. Up-to-date information will be added to the City of St. James Facebook Page as new information is made available.
Krawiecki encouraged the community to support the local businesses who are staying open or offering curbside service to help these businesses. Small businesses depend on community support to survive during normal operations, but this time is even more crucial as people stay home and practice “social distancing.”
City officials also gave an update on how the pandemic has affected city offices and what to expect in the coming weeks. “Fortunately, we’ve not seen the impact of the pandemic in St. James yet, other than the empty shelves we see at the store, the actions by the federal and county governments, and the closings of our schools we haven’t actually witnessed any illnesses in our town, yet. All the actions we are taking are here to limit all the possibilities of exposures of the virus,” Krawiecki said.
“Here’s what we’ve done so far. We’ve met with all of the department heads and individuals working there and explained to them how to best protect themselves by keeping their distance from coworkers, constant hand washing using disinfectant sprays, and symptoms of the disease to be aware of,” he said. Personal protective products have been provided to staff who work in the community, employees who can work from home have been provided the tools to do so, and city facilities used by the public, such as the Recreation Center, have been closed until further notice.
Events for gatherings of more than 50 people have been canceled in city-operated facilities and residents are encouraged to keep gatherings to 10 or fewer people, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and other health officials.
Public Works Director Lyle Thomas said the street, sanitation, and utility warehouse buildings have been posted as closed to the public and will be locked during the day. Anyone needing assistance from the Street Department can contact 573-261-8978, Sanitation is 573-263-9568, the Utilities office is 573-265-7011, extension 5, and the Utilities warehouse is 573-265-7213.
“Our plan with the Sanitation Department, which is one employee short due to a pre-existing medical condition, we’re currently shoring up that department with an employee from the Street Department. If employee strength drops below 50 percent in the Sanitation Department, we will suspend the recycling program until further notice,” Thomas said.
Should that take place, he added, notice will be sent out through various methods, including the county emergency response system, Facebook, and the newspaper. Any recycling will be put into the regular solid waste trash, should that occur.
Police Chief Ron Jones said Police Department is up to full staff, as the two School Resource Officers have returned to road duty while school is out, bringing the department up to full staff. Police will be taking extra precautions, such as using gloves during interactions with the public, and taking extra sanitary steps to allow officers to practice “social distancing” as much as possible over the next few weeks.
City Administrator Jim Fleming thanked the pubic for their practiced safety during this time and said the city is taking all the recommended steps to keep citizens and staff safe until health officials deem it safe to resume regular operations.
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