The word of the day is unprecedented. We’ve been using that a lot to describe the events that have transpired over the last month. COVID-19 has turned our world upside down but the city still needs to run and that requires a functioning government. That’s why with a recent change to the council rules to allow online and telephonic attendance to public meetings‚ this meeting had a majority of council members that attended via Webex.

You can read the entire packet and agenda to the March 24 meeting here:

https://www.ci.wausau.wi.us/Portals/0/Departments/Council/Archives/Council/Council/2020/COUN_20200324_Packet.pdf

First let me address a comment by critics that have surmised that teleconference meetings may hamper citizen engagement. The City of Wausau is following best practices and guidance outlined by the Wisconsin Department of Justice to hold open meetings via electronic forms. Citizens can follow the meetings in a variety of methods: online via the city’s Youtube livestreamCable channel 981 or 983‚ telephone dial-in to listen to meeting audio‚ or live at city hall (as long as they are not ill and follow social distancing guidelines). Public comment on any issue can be given in person in the council chambers or via email prior to the meeting. The email will be read into the public record. There is no lack of methods the public can use to follow along on city business.

I’m going to comment on a few significant items that where on the agenda for this evening’s meeting.

Resolution Authorizing the Mayor to approve payment deferrals on existing Cityprovided loans to commercial properties and businesses for up to one (1) year to assist small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic

This resolution actually was sent back to committee for some fine tuning‚ but it will allow the mayor to approve payment deferrals for loans to commercial properties and businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The city frequently loans money as part of a development incentive. Most notably the Commerical Rehabilitation Loan program that provides gap financing to businesses wishing to renovate their storefronts. The economic development committee will review the proposed resolution based on comments received at the council meeting and make appropriate adjustments.

Resolution Approving the 2020 budget modification for special event staffing – Wausau Police Department

Community events are quite popular but also result in significant costs to the Wausau Police Department. The department identified a deficient in their budget if they where to provide police support to these events at a staffing level that is considered adequate. There was much discussion about this resolution in both the Public Health and Safety and Finance Committee meetings and the general consensus is that: an increased police presence is warranted and justified and the city will fund that increase for the first year in order to not significantly alter the planning these events already have in place. But moving forward the city will look for ways in order to offset these costs‚ either through more participation by the event organizers or by utilizing room tax revenues in order to pay for special event staffing.

Resolution Approving City of Wausau Policy for Employees with Symptoms or Exposure of Novel COVID-19 Flu (Coronavirus)

This resolution sets up a city policy for employees on how the city will deal with those that have symptoms or exposure to COVID-19.

Resolution Ratifying the Emergency Proclamation of the Chief Executive Officer pertaining to the Covid-19 Pandemic and Declaration of Emergency

Resolution Approving Agreement for the Providing of Workforce Staffing between Wausau metro area municipalities

Resolution Approving Public Works Emergency Response Mutual Aid Agreement for use with other government entities

Resolution Approving Fire Department/DNR Memorandum of Understanding for Mutual Aid and Fire Suppression Services

These resolutions declare a state of emergency for the City of Wausau (declaring a state of emergency is important if the city wishes to secure funding or grants on how to deal with COVID-19). Notably this opens the door for police and fire to request personal protective equipment from the National Medical Stockpile.

The other resolutions set up mutual aid agreements with neighboring municipalities in order to provide shared services in this time of emergency. Each community may be affected differently by COVID-19 and this allows us to share resources with others and vice versa. We’re all in this together so working together is important.