The Planning and Zoning meeting scheduled for March 16 and the Devine City Council meeting scheduled for March 17 were both canceled due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.
Emergency Management Coordinator Rob Flores made the decision to cancel both meetings, as well as Municipal Court, and to close the Driscoll Public Library to the public on March 16.
The decision to close City Hall to the public was made on March 17, after a conference call with Medina County officials revealed the county’s first positive COVID-19 test.
Flores contacted members of the Planning and Zoning Board and City Council about holding the scheduled meetings, but ultimately made the call to cancel them.
“We’re making sure that we’re protecting our board members and our citizens,” Interim City Administrator Dora Rodriguez said. “We can’t take the chance, especially now that the county already has a positive case.”
Several members of the Planning and Zoning committee and the City Council are considered part of the high-risk population for contracting COVID-19, which spreads rapidly and has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.
Governor Greg Abbott recently suspended provisions requiring government officials to be physically present for meetings, allowing them to be held via telephone conference or videoconference, provided that a written notice was provided to the public instructing them on how to participate, and that a recording of the meeting was made publicly available.
Rodriguez said that the City’s IT specialist, James Evans, was in the process of trying to make a telephone conference or videoconference a possibility for the April City Council meeting so Council members, City staff, and residents can limit their outside exposure.
“There’s no reason for residents to come out when they don’t have to,” Rodriguez said.
Though City Hall will be closed to the public for the foreseeable future, City staff will still be on site from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm to answer questions and conduct business via the drive-thru window or over the phone. Bills can also be paid online.
If a transaction requires documents that are too large to fit through the drive-thru window, residents should call City Hall and make arrangements for someone to meet them.
Rodriguez said that the City had reached out to other municipalities to see how utility disconnects are being handled elsewhere before making a decision about how to handle the issue.
There were over 200 cases on the Municipal Court docket when it was canceled, and cases will be rescheduled for a later date.
Both the Public Works department and the Airport department will continue as usual. Police officers and Animal Control officers will be practicing the social distancing recommendations of staying at least six feet away from others. Residents with non-emergency issues are asked to call the police department and speak to an officer over the phone rather than stop by in person.
The Driscoll Public Library is closed to the public until further notice, though patrons can use their library accounts to check out ebooks and audiobooks via Overdrive or the Libby app. Overdue fines and check-out expiration dates have been suspended.
Rodriguez said the City was looking into the possibility of implementing an open WiFi network to enable residents to park at the library and connect their devices to the Internet from the safety of their vehicles.
The City is no longer accepting reservations for use of the George S. Woods Community Center. Decisions about events that are already scheduled will be made on a case-by-case basis.
Both parks remain open, though residents are urged not to gather in groups larger than 10, and to maintain a social distance of at least six feet.
Updates and additional information will continue to be posted on the City’s website at www.cityofdevine.org. For questions or more information, contact City Hall at 830-663-2804.
By Marly Davis