LACEY –– Lacey city councilors decided Thursday to extend the city’s state of emergency over COVID-19 to the end of the year.
Extending the state of emergency, now set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020, would allow the city to acquire federal aid during the remainder of the pandemic as reimbursement for the funds the city pays out in response to the pandemic.
The Lacey City Council already extended the emergency resolution twice after first passing it in March. With no end in sight to the coronavirus pandemic this year, instead of continuing to extend the resolution each month, city councilors wanted to extend it through the end of the year.
“I do feel like we need to extend this emergency declaration until Jan. 1 or Dec. 31,” said Mayor Andy Ryder during the meeting. “It makes sense to move it. We’re not going to be out of this emergency anytime soon.”
City officials stressed Lacey residents wouldn’t be evicted during the remainder of the year or see any interruptions in utility service.
“No utility bills will suffer late payments or shut-off in case they can’t pay during the period of this emergency,” said City Attorney Dave Schneider. “No foreclosure action will take place against any local improvement district property owner that has failed to make that payment. No adverse action will take place against them during this emergency.”
However, the interest on those payments will still accrue as normal, Schneider added.
“The obligation to make these payments is still there,” Schneider added.
The plastic bag ordinance will continue to be suspended for the duration of the emergency, Schneider said.
Some city councilors were worried utility customers wouldn’t pay their water and sewer bills, and that the city wouldn’t levy any fines for nonpayment.
“We would check in with you on a month-to-month basis on the issue of suspension of fees for shut-offs with utilities,” said City Manager Scott Spence. “We just want to be mindful that if we start getting a dramatic increase in people not paying, as you all know, fee suspensions are a part of the process to make sure people do pay on time. We still need to have a functional utility.”
City councilors have the option of cancelling the emergency resolution by a vote of the council if the state did actually see an end to the pandemic this year. The city resolution followed Gov. Jay Inslee’s proclamation of a state of emergency in Washington on Feb. 29. The Thurston County Board of Commissioners similarly declared a local emergency on March 12.