City gearing up for phased reopening of some government functions, poised for further guidance from Gov. Little

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

Sandpoint city leaders addressed plans for reopening some government functions to the public at the April 22 meeting of the City Council, with City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton stating that city offices — other than private offices and facilities — are scheduled to open Friday, May 1, one day after Governor Brad Little’s statewide stay-at-home order is set expire on Thursday, April 30.

The second floor of City Hall will remain closed, while visitors to the main floor, as well as city workers, will be ordered to wear personal protective equipment in the building.

Meanwhile, the city is awaiting further guidance from the governor’s office on whether, and when, large-scale public gatherings will be allowed based on public health risk assessments related to COVID-19.

Little is scheduled to deliver a statement on the economic impacts wrought by the coronavirus on Idaho at 11 a.m. (Mountain Time), Thursday, April 23. He will then speak with mayors and city administrators from around the state at 2 p.m., after which municipalities will share further guidance with citizens and their business communities in the coming week. 

For Sandpoint, Stapleton said at the council meeting that revenues from local sales are trending “fairly close to prior years” through the end of March. While revenue from the local option tax is down 10% from 2019, grocery sales are up by 50%. A fuller update on the city’s 2020 revenue forecast is expected at the Wednesday, April 29 council meeting.

Looking to the next few months, Stapleton confirmed to the Reader that most recreation programs sponsored by the city have been canceled for the spring and summer, “as we are not able to conduct them and maintain social distancing guidelines.”  

“We are participating in a conference call with Governor Little Thursday afternoon [April 23] and we anticipate receiving further guidance on what a phased reopening looks like in Idaho, considering the recommendations issued by the president last week and scientific data,” Stapleton wrote in an email. “That will help us work with special event organizers moving forward.”

She added that organizers of regularly scheduled spring and summer special events have contacted the city to give notice on whether they are rescheduling or canceling.  

“We have been working closely with the Farmer’s Market on significant changes this year, which will be announced next Wednesday [April 29] during the City Council meeting,” she wrote. “We anticipate we will have a more detailed update on all special events next week once we’ve had the opportunity to be briefed on the governor’s new guidelines, which will go into effect May 1.”

Should social distancing guidelines be lifted in the near future, Stapleton told council members that Sandpoint may experience “a really busy late August early September,” as deferred events kick into action following the current period of widespread closures.

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