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Pawnee Rock council expands Mayor’s power during emergency
Council meetings to be suspended until emergency order lifted
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The Pawnee Rock City Council met Monday night in a special meeting in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The door to the council chamber remained open to increase ventilation in the space, and one council member, Joyce Link, was present by telephone. The Great Bend Tribune was the only visitor at the meeting.

PAWNEE ROCK — Members of the Pawnee Rock City Council, the mayor and key city staff met Monday night in a special meeting where they took action on a preventative measure to protect citizens of Pawnee Rock from the spread of COVID-19. The meeting, planned before Governor Laura Kelly issued the emergency statewide stay at home order on Saturday, was called with response measures in mind. 

The key action taken was the passage of Resolution #96, declaring a state of emergency and expanding Mayor Terry Mead’s authority during the emergency. Council members approved the suspension of city council meetings until the emergency declaration is lifted. 

The resolution temporarily gives the mayor authority to make all decisions in regard to personnel and city operations without the need to obtain council approval. It includes the authority to temporarily amend, extend or suspend policies of the city in response to the emergency, to make decisions concerning employee leave and benefits, to make purchases exceeding the purchasing authority granted by the council and to make other decisions deemed necessary to continue city operations and secure the wellbeing and safety of the city’s employees and the public at large in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The authority takes effect immediately and comes with the caveat that the mayor inform the governing body of the actions taken under this temporary authority at the next council meeting after the action is taken. The resolution also states that the council ratifies the emergency decisions made by the mayor in response to the pandemic prior to the resolution. 

During discussion, council person Lakin Dill questioned not only the wisdom of not having a specified date for the end of the resolution, but also expressed concern of the far-reaching nature of the authority. 

Council members ultimately put their trust in the mayor that the authority would only be extended if an emergency situation required action. They approved Resolution #96 as written. 

There was also discussion about when the council would be able to meet next. 

After months of attempting to adapt the existing city website to the new administration, the council agreed in another action Monday night to transfer its domain to Central Plains Computer Services. Mayor Mead reasoned that the city would benefit from the services of a local company that could manage the site and assist with development, as well as provide technical support and assistance during the hours of operation of the city. 

Once the new website and domain are established, the city will have a new email address and can then create a new city Facebook page. When the new administration was sworn in, it was no longer able to access the previous administration’s email address which was used to establish the city’s social media presence. 

“Once we have a new Facebook page and a new website, we’ll be able to have virtual meetings like other cities in the county,” Mayor Mead said. “At that point, if the city would like to move forward with regular meetings, we can end the emergency resolution.” 

Other items of business included the approval of setting up a KanPay online payment option to enable utility customers to pay online. The option will be included on the city’s new website when it is created. The council also approved suspending late fees for utility payments during the stay-at-home order. While the door to the city office will remain closed to the public, customers can still make utility payments at the city building through the mail slot if they choose, but the council doesn’t want customers who are vulnerable to feel they need to leave their homes during the order. The city, in accordance with the state, will not turn off utilities to customers due to non-payment during the emergency period.