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 St. Clair Shores has closed City Hall, the library, Civic Arena, the Senior Activity Center and other city buildings to the public in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

St. Clair Shores has closed City Hall, the library, Civic Arena, the Senior Activity Center and other city buildings to the public in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo by Deb Jacques


St. Clair Shores closes buildings to public in response to coronavirus pandemic

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published March 20, 2020

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — Following an executive order by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the city of St. Clair Shores closed its library, Senior Activity Center, Civic Arena and golf course to the public as of March 16 to minimize the community spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

“We’re trying to look at the health and safety of our residents, but also our employees,” said City Manager Matthew Coppler.

To that end, the city has also closed City Hall, the Department of Public Works, the Police Department Records Division and the Fire Department administrative office to the public as of March 17. According to a press release from the city, the closures are “until further notice.”

City Council meetings will continue as scheduled, but they will not be open to public attendance. The public can watch the meetings in real time on the livestream in the Online Media Center at scsmi.net/civicmedia. Board and Commission meetings have been postponed until further notice.

Coppler said that if the meetings are live-streamed and they provide access for public comment, perhaps via email to a council member or through some other means, they believe it will still be considered an open meeting. The state of Ohio took action to do the same March 16, Coppler said, and he expected that Michigan would follow suit soon.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an order March 18 allowing public bodies to meet electronically. Executive Order 2020-15 ordered a temporary change to the Open Meetings Act to allow public bodies to use telephone or video conferencing to hold their meetings, while still facilitating public participation, until April 15.

There must still be adequate notice to the public of the meeting, a means for participants to address the public body during the public comment portion of the meeting, and a way for participants to record the meeting if they so choose.

The St. Clair Shores City Council did hold its regularly scheduled March 16 meeting, which was still open to the public. Between council members, city staff, petitioners and the public, about two dozen people were in attendance, but audience members were asked to spread out throughout the room. Council members and city staff also sat with at least one chair in between one another for social distancing. Its next meeting is scheduled for April 6.

Although residents will not be able to get assistance from city staff in person, they can call the Tax and Water Department at (586) 447-3317 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday for assistance, and tax and water bill payments can be placed in the white drop box outside City Hall or paid online at scsmi.net. The city is waiving credit card convenience fees, late-fee penalties and interest until City Hall reopens for regular business.

“Our intention here was to meet the requirement that the (Centers for Disease Control) and the President of the United States has implemented,” Mayor Kip Walby said.

Coppler pointed out that there are still ways for residents to interact with the city.

In the Community Development and Inspection Department, interior inspections have been postponed unless they relate to sanitary conditions or food preparation; rental inspections are suspended until further notice; and building permits, planning applications, submissions and review can be done online. Those needing assistance can call (586) 447-3350 for help.

“We are going to be very flexible,” Coppler said. “Very adaptable (and) keep our operations going forward as much as possible.”

He said that how the city conducts its business will be changing by the day and week as the situation develops.

“We are looking to try to keep the essential services going,” he said.

To that end, the Senior Activity Center is still providing meals on a carryout basis to those who rely on its nutrition program for lunch, and it is allowing seniors to continue to sign up for meals as well.

“I’m really excited. It’s really going over well,” said Parks and Recreation Director Henry Bowman.

He said the center is also still providing its bus service to those who have to get to essential appointments like doctor visits or who need to go grocery shopping. And the buses are being sanitized daily, he added.

Throughout the Parks and Recreation Department, Bowman said employees are being kept busy cleaning buildings and parks while they have no programs ongoing.

“Wherever we can make those changes, that’s what we’re going to be doing so we can provide a level of government to our residents,” Coppler said.

He encouraged residents to go online to the city’s website, scsmi.net, and social media outlets, or to call, if they have any questions about how to proceed with projects or bills.

“Be patient with us; we’ll be patient with you,” echoed City Councilman Ron Frederick.

Coppler said that if it appears that the shutdown will extend beyond March 31, they may have to look at how they provide services differently.

“I don’t think that we should be thinking that closing down City Hall is going to be a six-month kind of thing,” he said. “The strategy today is from a short-term perspective.

“To me, this is not the way that we should be running government, but at this point in time, this is the only way.”

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