COMMUNICATIONS AND NEWS FROM THE WEEK
Meetings and Announcements:
The next City Council meeting and workshop will be held on March 23rd. PLEASE NOTE THE TIME – The Council will be conducting the meeting via teleconference and the meeting will begin at 7:00 pm. You will get an email from Mychal Fowlds by Monday noon, as to how to dial in from home. There will be no workshops scheduled for the foreseeable future. We will be trying to prioritize our work and the work before you and minimize our meeting time for the next weeks. I will continue to update you daily on our operations.
I have asked each department to provide an update about the work happening with adaptions to how we are working in these trying times. See updates below.
Updates from Staff and Council:
The HR team continues to support its employees. In an attempt to ensure the health and safety of the community and staff we have implemented the following changes:
- Work from home program for staff able to work from home
- Mandatory self-quarantine protocols for employees who have travelled recently
- Established temporary PTO banks for employees/family who contract or are directly exposed to COVID-19
- Established mental, physical, and emotional health tips for staff
We continue to monitor the situation and work to support staff in support as they continue to deliver service to the residents.
Community development is continuing to provide all of core development services, but in some cases, in new and different ways. All employees that can work from home are doing so. Employees that have in-office responsibilities are working staggered schedules to reduce the number of people in the office.
Trash and Recycling Services
Republic Services and Tennis Sanitation are continuing residential curbside collection per their normal schedules. Both companies have continuation of operation plans to ensure essential solid waste collection occurs without interruption.
Building Inspections and Code Enforcement
Building and code enforcement continue to operate with modifications to inspection practices to ensure health and safety of city staff and the community. The city is continuing to issue building permits. Inspections are continuing to be performed for all critical facilities – hospitals, nursing homes, group homes, and food service, unless we are denied access due to a health quarantine. Lower risk inspections are also continuing, which include new construction sites that are not occupied and exterior residential inspections. Interior residential inspections are being done via photos and videos, and non-critical inspections are being delayed. Inspectors are avoiding entering all occupied residences.
Health Inspections Ensuring Compliance with Governor’s Executive Orders
This week Governor Walz issued multiple executive orders requiring the closure of bars, restaurants, fitness centers, places of public accommodation which include salons, barbershops and similar establishments. In turn, the city’s health inspector has spent much of the week conducting inspections ensuring compliance with the executive orders. Staff has inspected all swimming pools in the city to ensure they are closed – this includes public pools like at the YMCA and pools in places such as apartment buildings. All salons have been visited to ensure they are shut down. Restaurants that are offering take-out or delivery services – as allowed by the executive orders – are continuously being inspected to verify their take-out procedures are in compliance. The good news is the inspections team is finding everyone (public and food establishment workers) have known about the order and staff does not foresee any willful non-compliance. If the council has any questions about the inspection’s procedures or about a specific establishment please contact staff.
IT Response to COVID-19
This week has largely been spent enabling employees to work remotely. First and foremost, I want to thank Nick, Mike and Alex for the amazing job they’ve done this week. Each of them has gone above and beyond in their support of City staff by staying late, coming in early and generally doing whatever is needed to help employees maintain the ability to do their jobs remotely.
We’ve supported the use of laptops in all departments over the past 4-5 years so we are fortunate in that almost everyone that has been asked to work remotely already had a laptop to do so. In the event an employee did not have a laptop we’ve been able to accommodate all requests to equip them with one. We still have a few in reserve and have placed a planned replacement order of laptops to continue to ensure we have what we need to weather this storm.
It’s been a whirlwind week but the last item of note is that we’ve subscribed to Zoom to handle the Monday night Council meeting. I’ll be sending out call-in instructions no later than Monday at noon.
The communications division is dedicated to providing accurate city news to our community, letting people know what services are still available, what alerts have been issues and keeping them connected to their local government operations.
If there is something you can’t answer directly, please refer them to our COVID-19 resource page: MaplewoodMN.gov/covid19
Parks and Recreation Work Update
This has been an interesting week as staff began to work remotely or with limited office time and these are some of the ways that we are making it work for us both professionally and personally:
- Using the uninterrupted time to do things that usually get pushed to the side (deleting old files, flyers, etc.)
- Regular morning phone calls with staff to replace the normal in office check in chats that happen organically throughout the week
- We hope to work with communications to do some Facebook live shorts
- Had our first staff meeting on Tuesday using Zoom
- It was and still is so difficult to have to cancel everything with public, volunteers and partners but now we can focus on projects such as grants, work plans, board walk and bridge estimates, trail and yard clean up and file purging
- Trying to keep normal work and home routines and going for walks with the family
- Planning for summer programs
- I set up my workspace in the kitchen, which is the sunniest room in the house
- Writing up a work schedule each day that includes short breaks for stretching, yoga and check-ins with family.
No Child Left Inside Grant Award From the Department of Natural Resources
Nature Center staff have received news that our grant application titled: Nature Fun for Everyone: creating enjoyable nature experiences for kids of diverse backgrounds by Maplewood Nature Center and City of Maplewood Parks & Recreation has been selected for funding in Phase 2 of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources No Child Left Inside Grant Program. The City of Maplewood has been awarded $24,767.20 in reimbursable grant funds.
We are excited and look forward to working with a number of school partners over the next 2 years including Higher Ground, Webster, Cowern and Edgerton to implement the grant goals.
The Public Safety Department continues to monitor and adapt to the changing situation in our State and Country during the COVID-19 outbreak. We are continuing to educate staff and make efforts to ensure that they have the CDC recommended protection, and limit opportunities for exposure, to keep them safe. Despite the COVID-19 related issues, public safety staff continue in their mission to provide for a safer community. As an example, in the past week the Police Departments Street Crimes Unit (SCU) working with the patrol division made multiple arrests on two different groups who have been involved in the theft of Catalytic Converters, with Officers finding Catalytic Converters, cutting tools, and narcotics on the groups. We found that some who were arrested have been arrested on multiple occasions and also had warrants for their arrest.
We will continue to remain vigilant in ensuring that public safety is a priority in the coming days, weeks and months.
The Finance Department will be able to perform almost every duty remotely. The Payroll and Accounts Payable Clerks will only need to come in briefly to print checks as we will not be taking check stock home.
The DMV employees are working both from home and at the office. They are still doing dealer work and have taken on additional dealers from other cities who are not doing dealer work. We are very close to capacity for transactions that we can handle, so we may have to turn some dealers away. I think there is likelihood that some of these dealers will stay with us after the crisis, so we will need to be prepared for the extra business. Employees are doing training during the time they are at home.
We are establishing an online link for customers to pay for City services online. This will help as we continue to find new ways to deliver services remotely.
This has been a hectic week as we try to keep pace with our employee and community needs and at the same time, keep everyone safe.
Thank you for your leadership and support and we navigate the new “normal”. Be safe and stay well.