Mission council extends state of emergency, discusses HR issues related to pandemic work absences

Mayor Ron Appletoft, seen above in a file photo, noted on Monday that the council had deliberated at length on the issue earlier this month.

Note: The Shawnee Mission Post is making all of its local coverage of the coronavirus pandemic accessible to non-subscribers. (If you value having a news source covering the situation in our community, we hope you’ll consider subscribing here).

The Mission city council on Wednesday evening extended its state of emergency and disaster proclamation — first declared on March 13, valid for one week — through April 5.

Mission was one of the first cities in the area to declare a state of emergency. City Administrator Laura Smith said the proclamation allowed the city to relax some of its regular policies and procedures to deal with the “complicated and constantly evolving” COVID-19 situation.

“One of the things we have learned over the last 10 days or so is that as soon as you think you have landed on a plan that makes sense, something changes,” Smith said. “Everyone is moving quickly to revise and rework to align with recommendations coming from our public health authorities — I don’t foresee that changing in the near future, we are all learning, reacting and responding as we move forward.”

Smith said there wasn’t much consistency in the extensions from counties and other cities, but with how quickly coronavirus-related issues are changing, she said she expects more changes in the coming weeks. If there is a sense that the state of emergency and disaster proclamation needs to be extended past April 5, the city council can reconvene at a special called city council meeting to discuss such an extension, she said.

Councilmember Sollie Flora asked how the city would be enforcing potential revisions, as the extension states it will follow county orders such as partial closures of bars and restaurants. Smith said city staff has been working with the police department to understand which statutes extend enforcement, and that they city may have some responsibility, but charges would come from the district attorney’s office.

Additionally, Flora asked if the city is publicizing information about Gov. Laura Kelly’s executive orders related to utility shut offs, foreclosures and evictions. Flora said those orders could help the community during this time, and Smith said the city is working to add that information to the city’s repository of COVID-19 information.

Smith also sought out support from the city council on an estimated cost of $20,000 that goes along with asking part-time employees not to be allowed to report to work from March 19 through April 5, but will continue to be paid. A full-time employee who is missing work for coronavirus-related reasons such as self-quarantining or childcare as a result of the school closures would be paid normally through April 5, “with no requirement to draw down paid leave time,” Smith said. The city council was in support.

All judicial functions at the city will be postponed until May 12, as that aligns with the normal scheduling of court dates that are set out that far in advance, Smith said. Court dates have already been pushed into April and May 12 would be the first opportunity to assign a notice to appear, she said.

Councilmember Hillary Parker-Thomas asked if the city is considering pushing back court fines or fees to give people reassurance, and Smith said the city’s court staff has been contacting people and providing continuances. The city council approved the extension unanimously.