UPDATE: This story has been updated with more information and a comment from City Administrator Matt Jaunich.
Hutchinson City Council officially declared the city to be in a state of emergency Tuesday night in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a press release from the city, this declaration will allow city officials to better respond to the changing information and events concerning the disease.
The press release said that by declaring an emergency, the city will have better flexibility in dealing with the current public health situation as it evolves. It also gives the city, City Administrator Matt Jaunich and the city’s emergency operations manager, Police Chief Tom Gifferson, the ability to make the following emergency-related decisions without going through the typical bidding process or receiving council approval:
- Entering into contracts
- Employing temporary workers
- Adjusting schedules of existing workers
- Renting equipment
- Buying supplies and materials
- Closing or regulating hours of operation of public buildings
- Adjusting the city budget
Current policies allow Jaunich to approve purchases up to $50,000, but the emergency declaration allows him to approve emergency-related expenses beyond that limit. State law also notes that public bidding is required for expenses more than $175,000, but with the emergency declaration the city no longer has to do any public bidding for emergency-related purchases.
While the declaration allows Jaunich greater purchasing flexibility, he said he doesn't anticipate the city needing to make large purchases at this time.
"The greatest flexibility it gives to the city at this point is my ability to close facilities down and be flexible with staff," Jaunich said. "I don't see us having a ton of expenses, at this stage, related to the pandemic."
The emergency declaration also allows the city to access funding from McLeod County, state and federal sources to coordinate response efforts with these other layers of government.
McLeod County has already declared a state of emergency.
According to the press release, this is a proactive measure, ensuring the city's resources are available, prepared and used appropriately as Hutchinson readies itself for possible impacts on its resources and residents during the pandemic.
While the city is declaring a state emergency, there have not yet been any confirmed cases of COVID-19 in McLeod County or Hutchinson. This step was taken, according to the press release, so the city is prepared for when it is impacted by the virus.