By Ben Olson
The Sandpoint City Council held a special meeting Wednesday, March 25 at 5:30 p.m. to consider an ordinance granting Mayor Shelby Rognstad “emergency powers to provide for the safety and health of Sandpoint residents.”
The council voted 5-1 to oppose the ordinance after discussion.
Rognstad began the meeting by commending Gov. Little on his leadership in issuing a stay-at-home order earlier Wednesday, as well as recognizing the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on Sandpoint residents and business owners.
City administrator Jennifer Stapleton stated that the city will continue providing essential services to the community.
“We want to remind our community members how to access our commununity services online,” Stapleton said. “Building and planning permits can be also be applied for over the phone.”
Stapleton said city offices would close at the direction of Gov. Little effective 8 a.m. March 26.
“We will to a great extent be a virtual City Hall,” she said.
Rognstad said the ordinance was introduced due to a large number of emails and requests from the community to take more stringent action to guard against the impending threat.
“Things have changed with the governor’s announcement this afternoon,” Rognstad said. “My feeling is that the governor’s stay-at-home order has taken every action that I would conceive of, right now, and that this council would have taken through this ordinance.”
Rognstad said the motion could have potential value if the governor changed his mind in two weeks and it would allow the city to remain “nimble and responsive” to a situation that changes daily, if not hourly.
Councilwoman Deb. Ruehl made a motion to table the ordinance to next week’s meeting, as the council has adopted weekly tele-meetings during this crisis. It was seconded and discussion centered around the fact that the community at large was mandating itself without an edict from the city.
“I’d rather not pass the ordinance tonight, but move on week by week,” Councilman Joel Aispuro said.
The motion to table to ordinance was opposed with a 5-1 vote, with Ruehl being the only yea.
Councilman John Darling then made a motion to deny the ordinance, after discussion acknowledged the ordinance could be brought up again as further situations call for.
“I believe we have all the guidance in place at the state level,” Darling said. “I think this ordinance is out of date … and I’m not comfortable moving forward with any kind of mandate at a local level yet.”
Council President Shannon Williamson agreed the motion should be opposed, but expressed concern that she didn’t want to “take any tools off the table we may need in the future.”
The motion to oppose the ordinance granting emergency powers to the mayor was opposed after a 5-1 vote, Councilman Andy Groat being the only nay vote.
The Mayor, the city administrator and all councilmembers expressed pride in the community for their continued diligence in helping to fight the spread of coronavirus.
The special meeting was adjourned at 6:30 p.m.
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