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Royal Oak shutters City Hall, city facilities to public

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published March 18, 2020

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ROYAL OAK — In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Royal Oak City Commission unanimously voted to close City Hall, as well as other city buildings, to the public indefinitely.

Mayor Michael Fournier added the item to the City Commission’s regular agenda after discussing the matter with interim City Manager and City Attorney David Gillam. Other buildings impacted include the Department of Public Service, animal shelter, senior center, library, 44th District Court and the Lindell Ice Arena.

Beginning March 18, the senior center kitchen will only provide pickup meals from noon to 3 p.m., and reservations must be made in advance. For more information, call the center at (248) 246-3900.

The Royal Oak Farmers Market will only remain open on Saturdays for the farm market from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. All other events at the farmers market are canceled, the valet parking service is suspended until further notice, and vendor setup will be reconfigured to facilitate safe social distancing.

“The farm market will remain open because it is important that our community has continued access to the high quality, locally grown, farm fresh products our market provides,” Royal Oak Farmers Market Manager Shelly Mazur said in a March 17 letter. “We will be enforcing a strict no sampling policy (and) we have asked all our vendors to bring hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes and/or gloves for all of their workers.”

She encouraged patrons to limit the handling of any market products and follow safe social distances and safe hygiene practices as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We would like to stress, if you are sick or in a high-risk group, such as a (compromised immune) system, heart disease, diabetic or elderly, we strongly advise you to please stay home,” Mazur said. “We will continue to monitor, evaluate and communicate as needed in the days ahead.”

City Hall staff will continue to report to work to answer calls, open mail, process applications and more. Staff can assist with birth and death certificates, building permits, dog licenses and more by phone. To reach City Hall, call (248) 246-3200.

Residents can pay bills by mail, drop box or online. To take advantage of the city’s online resources, visit www.romi.gov. The drop box is located on Third Street, near the entrance to the Royal Oak Police Department.

Gillam said the city encouraged employees to work remotely if possible and that he will work with the collective bargaining agreements to advance sick leave or vacation time in order to provide for extenuating circumstances, such as parents who must take care of children.

“There is also legislation pending in Washington — it’s been approved in the House and it’s working its way through the process in the Senate — that could extend additional benefits to our employees,” he said. “We’re keeping a close eye on that, because that affects the decision we make and what we’re able to do for employees going forward.”

He added that the city would be “very forgiving” in terms of tardy or delinquent payments during the “period of time we’re going through this new normal, if you will.”

In a phone conference earlier that day, Gillam said a Michigan Municipal League representative indicated a rumor that the Governor’s Office or state Legislature may make changes or modifications to the Open Meetings Act to allow municipalities to conduct meetings remotely. He said members of the public could potentially monitor the meetings from home and possibly provide comments.

Gillam said the city would continue to hold City Council meetings in order to keep everything moving forward, although he said he expected abbreviated meeting agendas.

The city canceled its marijuana workshop scheduled for March 31, which means Gillam will have to draft ordinances to extend the city’s recreational marijuana opt-out window beyond June 1. The purpose of the workshop was to solicit community input, consult industry experts and answer questions.

“It’s a very fluid situation. It just changes just about every hour,” he said. “We’re trying to maintain a level of service. We’re trying to let the public know that we’re here. We’re all going to work through this. You don’t need to panic, but we all need to be aware of what’s going on and we need to take steps, whatever we can, reasonably, to try to minimize the risk to everybody involved.”

Royal Oak, Fournier said, will get through it with strong leadership and strong talent in its ranks.

“It’s quite unusual times, and I do think some extreme measures we wouldn’t typically take are warranted, and I do think that means limited access to the buildings with the exception of the farmers market for purposes of the food vendors,” Commissioner Randy LeVasseur said. “We need to get people out of the habit of showing up in person, because it’s just not a good thing to be doing right now.”

For more updates, visit www.romi.gov or city of Royal Oak’s Facebook page.

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