The Maple Grove City Council conducted an emergency council meeting at 8 a.m Friday, March 27. The city has joined many other cities in the area and declared a local emergency.

This declaration allows the city to put necessary portions of emergency management and response plans in place. It also allows the city to authorize aid and services that will protect the health, safety and welfare of the city and community.

The council approved waiving late fees on utility bills, and discussed temporary personnel policies related to COVID-19.

Fire Chief Tim Bush also provided an update to the council on the city’s response to the pandemic.

WAIVING UTILITY LATE FEES

The city is also waiving late penalty fees on utility bills for residents and businesses for the billing quarter.

Councilor Kristy Barnett said, “I think, this is a small way that we can help our residents.”

TEMPORARY PERSONNEL POLICIES

Human Resources Director Denise Thul asked the council to consider approving temporary personnel policies related to COVID-19.

There are three temporary policies.

The first is for an exemption to vacation accrual maximum. The city’s current policy caps vacation accrual at 300 hours. Thul said, “This temporary policy makes an exception to the maximum accrual and allows employees to accrue above the maximum through Dec. 31, 2020.”

Secondly, a negative sick leave balance would be allowed. Employees would be allowed to accrue a negative sick leave balance up to 80 hours due to COVID-19. This temporary policy would remain in place until the City Council discontinues it.

The final temporary policy is a shut down city facilities and non-essential employee plan. The city has been working under a policy to keep all benefit-earning employees working, unless they are unable to work because of health or child care reasons. Other staff have been working in alternate locations or using remote work options if available. Due to Govern Tim Walz’s Stay at Home order, Thul said, “There may be city employees that are deemed non-essential and will not be able to report for work during the Stay at Home order.” These employees would be eligible for their full pay through April 10.

The council approved the three temporary policies.

COVID-19 UPDATE

Maple Grove Fire Chief Tim Bush, who is also the city’s emergency management director, gave an update to the council regarding the city’s response to COVID-19.

“Over the past two weeks we have closed the Maple Grove Community Center and suspended or canceled recreation programs sponsored by the City of Maple Grove,” he said. “We restricted access to public buildings and reduced non-essential services. At the same time we increased the availability of cleaning supplies for city staff and emphasized increased cleaning of frequently touched surfaces at the start of shifts, after lunch, and any other time there is a need.”

He continued, stating the city has not stopped providing essential services to residents and businesses. People are urged to use the phone, email or online options to conduct business with the city instead of coming to a city office in person.

“As we move closer to the start of Governor Walz’ stay at Home Order, we continue to provide much of the services our residents have come to expect,” he said.

The city is using virtual technology to conduct meetings.

To keep city staff and the public safe, the city has canceled or postponed trainings. Firefighters still are responding to emergency calls, but additional sanitation and increased social distancing have been implemented.

“Maple Grove has discontinued all site inspections for construction that require entering an occupied home or business, but we continue to inspect new construction and unoccupied remodels,” Bush said. “We are continuing the review process of new construction plans previously submitted, and the city of Maple Grove will continue responding to development applications.”

Residents will be seeing additional restrictions, such as the closing of playgrounds and sport courts. However, park trails will remain open and available for residents to get outside, exercise, and take in some fresh air while practicing social distancing.  

“I know we can’t stop it, but we have made and will continue to make adjustments that will allow us to provide as many services as reasonably possible during this health emergency,” Chief Bush added.

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