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Officials consider reopening some city services

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Some city services could begin to reopen to the public as early as Friday.

City Manager Joe Neeb told the Roswell City Council at a special meeting Monday the Water Billing Department, 415 N. Richardson Ave., would likely be among the first to open, along with some city parks.

The city first closed the Roswell Adult Center and Visitors Center on March 16, followed two days later by most other city buildings and facilities.

“We are starting to look at reopening city services and looking at trying to figure out how to do that. We are looking at May 1, 2020, to open some of the services and then other services we may delay a little longer based on these assessments,” Neeb said.

“We have the expectation that one of the first services that will open up is our billing office. We still have a majority of our people, seniors, that want to pay in cash, and we have no good way to have them put it in an envelope and throw it in a box or anything. They really want to make sure their money makes it to where they are getting it,” he said.

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Neeb said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s expected extension of the stay-at-home order to May 15 will exempt governmental services, but the city will assess which offices will open and when according to criteria established by the Centers for Disease Control.

“With the governor’s exemption to governmental services, I believe we can get a few more of these open where we can at least give individuals back some of that freedom that everybody’s talking about,” Neeb said.

The criteria the city will use are:

• Managing the workplace for employee safety, such as minimizing contact with the public, spreading out workers over shifts and educating about safety practices such as hand washing;

• Identifying where and how workers might be exposed to the coronavirus by evaluating how often an employee is likely to have contact with someone who is potentially infected;

• Establishing policies and controls including determining what physical barriers such as sneeze guards or personal protection equipment might be required;

• Supporting respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene, or making sure hand sanitizer is available for employees and the public, wiping down surfaces that are frequently touched and discouraging handshakes; and

• Performing enhanced environmental cleaning and disinfection.

The risk of employee contact will be determined from guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as low, medium or high.

Employees with low risk would be those who have no contact with the public, such as those who monitor systems at Central Control.

Medium exposure would include those who have some contact with the public, such as at the library, and would need additional protection such as sneeze guards or wearing home-made face masks.

Those at high risk of exposure would be first responders, Neeb said.

“They’re going to have to wear the masks, they’re going to have to wear the gloves,” he said.

The city might also perform enhanced medical monitoring of those employees, he said.

“On an occasional basis, we should be able to test those first responders more often. They’re more susceptible of being in contact with the virus,” he said.

The billing office already has sneeze guards in place, Neeb said. The next step would be to regulate how many visitors can be in the office at once. That will likely mean placing stripes on the floor to guide lines of people with markers set 6 feet apart.

In addition, services through the phone and email will remain, and offices that have allowed in-office visits by appointment will continue, Neeb said.

Councilwoman Angela Moore asked if all the city offices have enough space for employees to observe social distancing. Neeb said in many offices, that is being done by staggering shifts and limiting the number of people in an area at one time. Only a certain number of people are allowed on each floor of City Hall at one time, he said. Utility crews have stretched their shifts from 6 a.m. to almost 11 p.m., and Code Enforcement employees are often in the field rather than the office, he said.

Some city parks — although not athletic fields due to their nature of large gatherings — might be able to reopen as well, Neeb said.

“We’ll be putting back out some of the port-a-potties” for people using the recreational paths, he said. Moore asked how the port-a-potties could be monitored.

“We will increase the amount of attention that each one of the port-a-potties get so they’re cleaned on a more regular basis. They’ll have to be disinfected on a fairly regular basis,” Neeb said.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

 

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