St. James Mayor Rick Krawiecki signed a proclamation on Saturday encouraging social distancing and ordering a voluntary shelter in place order until April 30. The city is encouraging citizens to stay home to slow down the spread of COVID-19 and has taken additional steps to safeguard city employees.
“The city of St. James has gone to great lengths to implement the Center for Disease Control’s recommendations for social distancing, minimizing the number in group gatherings, canceling meetings and municipal court, waiving late fees for utility bills, and closing non-essential city services to minimize the social contact and the spread of the CoVID-19 virus,” the proclamation said. The original order was to run until April 6, but was extended to April 30 following President Donald Trump’s extended social distancing guidelines released on Sunday.
Citizens who do need to leave their residence are encouraged to follow CDC guidelines, washing their hands frequently, staying in groups of 10 or fewer when possible, and keeping a safe distance, approximately six feet, away from others.
“Our number-one priority is to make sure our citizens are safe and our employees are safe,” Krawiecki said. “I have three daughters that are in healthcare and with talking to them they all agree that social distancing is probably the best way to fight this. I know with kids at home, grandkids at home, they all want to get out and do things at the park and things like that. We do not have the ways and means to disinfect our playground equipment and this virus can live in the air for three hours, on cardboard for 24 hours, on steel for two days, and on plastic for three days. So, this if probably not the best place to take your children at this time.”
Krawiecki said gatherings at the park are acceptable, but he advised limiting gatherings to less than 10 people and to practice social distancing as much as possible. He added he and City Administrator Jim Fleming met with Phelps County commissioners last week, voicing concerns about what impact this pandemic is having on local businesses.
“We expressed our concerns about shutting down all the businesses. We are concerned about the health of our local businesses and making sure that they continue to function as well as possible,” Krawiecki said.
He added some businesses have voluntarily shut down during this period and others have changed their hours or offering alternative ways to serve their customers. Commissioners, he said, advised businesses and citizens continue to limit their exposure by sheltering in place.
The city is also taking additional steps to help workers stay safe for the next few weeks, changing some of the services provided to citizens. “We’re taking as many precautions as we can to protect our employees. So, starting Monday, March 30, we’re dividing our departments into two teams,” Fleming explained.
“One team will be working while the other team has been asked to shelter in place. This is to minimize the contact between our teams so that if one person is infected with the coronavirus, it will be less likely they will infect the entire department,” Fleming said. This, he added, will cause some changes in how workers do their job.
The utility pole replacement program has been put on hold for the month of April as workers look towards providing the most critical services. “We do have our guys on call who are sheltering at home in case there is an emergency,” Fleming said. Workers will not be laid off and will be paid for their work during this time, but the most important thing, Fleming said, was to ensure workers remain healthy.
“With the sanitation department, we are going to be running every day, but they are going to be split shifts. So, the residential customers will be done during the day and the dumpster pickup for commercial customers will be done in the evenings,” Fleming said.
Residential customers are asked to bag all of their trash, as no loose trash will be picked up during this time. “You may want to start bringing your trash out at night because our guys will be starting earlier in the mornings. Also, you may consider getting a trash can with a lid so the dogs and raccoons don’t get into it because we won’t be able to clean up the mess they make,” he said. The city, he said, appreciates the patience of citizens as everyone deals with this unique situation.
City hall will be closed beginning March 30, but the utility drive through window will be open for those needing to make a payment for their utility bills or for other city related business. “The goal is to keep the germs outside of the building and protect our employees from unnecessary contact,” Fleming said.
Anyone needing to speak with Fleming, Public Works Director Lyle Thomas, or Building Code Enforcement Officer Nathan Browne, contact city hall at 573-265-7013 and they can make an appointment to address any issues. The drop box on Washington Street will also remain open for utility bill drop off. Utility bills and court costs can also be filled out online at www.stjamesmo.org. The city will also not be reading water meters in April, but will use an average usage to determine this month’s bill. Physical readings will start again in May.
Fleming also advised residents not to put anything except for toilet paper into the sewage system. “We all know about the toilet paper shortage. And, it may seem ok to use alternatives, but anything but toilet paper will clog your toilet. It’ll clog your sewer laterals, it backs up our mains, and it damages our pumps. So, please, don’t flush baby wipes, or wipes that say they are flushable, they are not,” he said. Feminine hygiene products and paper towels are also very damaging to the system and are not to be flushed.
Krawiecki and Fleming thanked citizens for following proper procedures during this time and encouraged staying home as much as possible throughout April.
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