MARYVILLE, Mo. — As workplaces across the country "zoom" into the new reality of life during a pandemic, so too did the Maryville City Council Monday evening, livestreaming its regular meeting through the seemingly ubiquitous video conferencing platform, Zoom.
Naturally, concerns about COVID-19 were top of mind for council members who were separated as much as possible, though not close to the six feet recommended by the city.
Over the weekend, the city issued an emergency order echoing Gov. Mike Parson’s that prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people, and mandated that people avoid going to restaurants, bars, nursing homes or other similar facilities. Restaurants are still able to provide drive-thru or curbside services, and no other businesses are specifically affected other than through the social distancing mandate.
“So that is on the individual business owner, to figure out how they can solve that mandate,” said City Manager Greg McDanel. “All three of those items — the social distance mandate, the closure of bars, the closure of restaurants — are enforceable now by municipal violations.
“And so, the way staff was looking at it, any egregious violation of the social distancing policy we could enforce. We would obviously try to warn everyone to disperse, but if someone was to hold a large gathering, potentially an auction or something of that nature, we would be able to enforce the municipal violation on that through Public Safety.”
McDanel said that he’s been in contact with some businesses, including Kawasaki, about how they will meet the social distancing mandates, and is confident they have successful plans in place. He also said Kawasaki specifically has planned for the next step: a shelter-in-place order.
He said that an order like the one that went into effect in St. Joseph Monday would likely require a positive test for COVID-19 in the county or in the Mosaic hospital system, including in St. Joseph. As of last week, two people in Nodaway County have been tested and both tests were negative. Although access to some private testing has increased their availability, tests remain extremely hard to come by. Consequently, the requirements that determine who can get tested in the first place mean that positive cases are severely underreported, especially in people who do not show symptoms.
In response to a question from Mayor Rachael Martin about why the city should wait for a positive test showing that the disease has already made its way into the community, McDanel said it’s a difficult balance that local agencies are attempting to strike in the absence of any statewide guidance from the governor’s office.
“I think there’s a fine line, and you’re going to get criticized if you do, and you’re going to get criticized if you don’t, and that shouldn’t be a worry right now,” he said. “But there’s a fine line between doing it too early and doing it too late.
“(Doing it too early) would close half the businesses in this community that aren’t essential, then (start) the clock on something that we all believe is going to go on for a long duration … for employees, families who need those paychecks to go to the grocery store. So, there’s a very fine line on when that is.”
But, McDanel added, a statewide shelter-in-place order could come down any day — or not at all.
To follow the mandates, the city is implementing a policy for any employees who can work from home to do so, and alternating in-person schedules for others.
On Sunday, McDanel appointed Assistant City Manager Ryan Heiland as Volunteer Coordinator for the city’s response to COVID-19. According to a Facebook post by McDanel, Heiland’s duties will include being a point of contact for volunteers, coordinating supplies with demand and ensuring CDC recommendations are followed. Heiland can be contacted at 660-562-8001 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
While the immediate attention of the world is focused on the coronavirus pandemic, other city business marches on, including the previous crisis of the day: the cyanobacteria on Mozingo Lake.
McDanel said that the latest samples from the lake show that the bacteria levels are still above the state’s recommended threshold, and warnings remain up around the lake discouraging direct contact. Drinking water remains safe.
The city had planned to hold a preliminary meeting with stakeholders in the watershed alongside the Missouri Rural Water Association, but it’s been postponed because of the pandemic.
From March 9-12, staff members attended the MRWA annual conference, which McDanel called “eye-opening.” Dividends from the conference included a lead on a new product that city staff is optimistic about called Solar Rafts.
During the last attempt to mitigate algae levels on the lake in 2018, city staff had considered a product called Solar Bees, which churn the water to kill the bacteria. However in several sites across the country where the equipment had been used, it sometimes had adverse effects, making the problem worse by breaking up the cyanobacteria and letting loose cyanotoxins — which currently have not been detected on Mozingo Lake.
Unlike Solar Bees, Solar Rafts are solar-powered, floating, ultrasound pulse emitters that send out sonic waves and kill algae without breaking up their structure and releasing cyanotoxins, McDanel said. The product, from Sonic Solutions, is relatively new, so it doesn’t have much of a track record — successful or otherwise.
But McDanel did point to the city of Moberly, which began using Solar Rafts last year, as a positive example.
“Their utilities director, (Mary West-Calcagno), is highly regarded in public utilities as someone with vast knowledge, and well-respected by the Missouri Rural Water Association,” McDanel told the council. “She swears to this product, that it is effective.”
Though McDanel said he wasn’t seeking approval from council right now, he expects that the city will likely move forward soon with a single unit to test its effectiveness in one targeted area. If the results of that trial are positive, then he said the city will consider purchasing six units to place on the lake at various points away from high traffic areas that would provide comprehensive coverage. Each unit costs approximately $15,000 to purchase, he said.
It also will not harm fish in the lake.
“Even if this does work,” McDanel said, “this would just be a piece of this ongoing puzzle.”
Council members approved the construction of an 80-foot communications tower to be used at the new consolidated 911 center.
The 80-foot lattice tower will be located at the north side of the new MPS headquarters at 101 Vine St., and will be enclosed by a six-foot security fence.
Last month, the Polk Township board voted to reimburse the city for the cost of the tower — $53,150 — as a show of appreciation for and to support the consolidation dispatch center.
Sales tax holiday
The council also approved the Show Me Green Sales Tax Holiday, scheduled to take place April 19-25.
Because the city passed the ordinance, customers who purchase qualifying Energy Star appliances during that week will not pay city or state sales taxes.
According to the Missouri Department of Revenue website, the exemption includes purchases during that period which are completed online.
A list of qualifying appliances is available here.