Herriman City Leaders Convene Digitally for First Online City Council, State of the City Discussion
Mar 26, 2020 01:09PM
By Justin Adams
Herriman leaders gathered for an online-city council meeting on Wednesday evening. (Screenshot via city YouTube page.)
By Justin Adams | [email protected]
Herriman City business goes on, albeit with a few adaptations.
On Wednesday evening, the city held its first city council meeting since March 11. During the course of that meeting two weeks ago, the outside world learned that the NBA season had been cancelled, Tom Hanks tested positive for COVID-19 and the reality of what the country was about to go through began to set in.
There have obviously been a lot of changes since then, including to the way the city council holds its meetings. During its meeting Wednesday night, all but one city council person attended remotely via video chat. Multiple city employees and department heads were also digital attendees.
The meeting consisted of a few voting items, like approval for city committees to hold meetings electronically as well as approval for an ordinance limiting the discharge of firearms within the city, but the bulk of the time was reserved for a discussion about the state of the city.
City Manager Brett Wood said that the city did a good job of preparing for the current situation. Weeks before the virus arrived in America, Herriman City staff were already watching it and doing things like ordering extra supplies and preparing to make work-from-home arrangements possible for its employees.
Councilman Clint Smith talked about how that same spirit of preparedness is something that has been part of Herriman’s culture for a long time, citing a high level of engagement with CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams).
“I think we can say that we are fortunate to live in a community that has always taken emergency preparedness very seriously,” he said.
Slowing the Spread
City leaders also spoke about what they’re doing to help slow the spread of the virus.
Wood said that early on, the city decided to implement an A-B schedule in which the city’s workforce gets cut in half. For one week the A’s work at city hall while the B’s work from home. Then they switch places the next week. “One half will never cross-contaminate the other,” he explained.
It’s a less-than-ideal situation for employees who have to figure out creative ways of maintaining their effectiveness from home. Councilman Steven Shields took a moment to praise them for their efforts.
“I wanted to take a moment to thank all of our staff that have had some tremendous strain on them dealing with these remote working conditions, trying to keep the city organized. You guys all deserve a lot of applause and appreciation for all the good work you’re doing,” he said.
Given the importance of public safety, it should come as no surprise that the city’s law enforcement employees are implementing even more stringent precautionary measures. Their workforce are divided into three different groups that aren’t mixing so as to isolate any potential contamination. They are also not allowing other city employees or even police officers’ own family members into the department offices, according to Police Chief Troy Carr.
Speaking of the police department, there are a few unique challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic which the department is either currently experiencing, or is preparing for.
First, Carr said that there has been an increase in the number of domestic violence calls. While unfortunate, Carr said he wasn’t surprised by this and that it’s consistent with every other police department in the area.
“I know exactly why this is happening. When people are around each other this much, they get irritable,” he said. “Even with our loved ones, when you’re stuck in a house, I imagine it gets a little close, a little tight.”
Another issue which Carr foresees is having to investigate COVID-19 related deaths that occur within people’s homes.
“I do fear that as this progresses, we will be handling some death investigations. That is a big consumer of both time and equipment for detectives. If we have a confirmed COVID-19 death in a home, we have to go and investigate it,” he said.
Parks and Events
While city and county parks remain open, the city’s Parks and Recreation Director Wendy Thomas said they might not be open for too much longer.
“We’ve been talking with other cities and the county to coordinate the closure of our parks and amenities at the same time to make sure we’re not pushing people out into other cities and causing problems for them,” she said.
If parks are indeed closed, Thomas said the city will add new signage rather than using something like caution tape.
As far as enforcement, Carr said that the department won’t be driving around looking to give citations to people using closed parks, for two reasons. First, he said that he doesn’t want to risk exposure to officers for low-priority cases. Second, he said he feels uncomfortable anytime law enforcement is used to curtail freedoms that Americans regularly enjoy.
As for events, Thomas said she’s hopeful that many of the city’s biggest events will still happen.
“I’m trying to be cautiously optimistic that we are going to get through this thing quickly and we won’t have to cancel any of our big summer events. That would really break a lot of people’s hearts,” she said.
One particular event mentioned by Thomas was the Tour of Utah, which announced earlier this year that Herriman would be hosting its opening stage. While the event is scheduled for later in the summer (Aug. 3), Thomas said she is meeting with the organizers to discuss options.