In a few weeks, the City of Wharton will begin what officials are calling a “phased-in approach” to reopen city facilities and amenities during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
The Wharton City Council paved the way by unanimously voting to approve what the city staff had presented to elected officials during a regular Monday, May 11 meeting.
The council was told that the city staff was reacting to what Gov. Greg Abbott had done with his “Open Texas” initiative on Monday, April 27.
Council members viewed a draft copy of the aptly-named “City of Wharton COVID-19 Reopening Guidelines for City Facilities and Amenities.”
In their meeting packet, on Wednesday, May 6, the council read that the City of Wharton management staff took their new information to assist in preparing the plan for Wharton.
“The guidelines have the steps that will be taken by the City of Wharton both for internal and external procedures set for Monday, June 1,” a memo read.
Let the opening begin
The following steps will be taken by the City of Wharton.
Wharton City Hall and city offices: As Wharton enters Phase I under the governor’s plan, the city offices will remain closed to the public. As Gov. Abbott evaluates the Monday, May 18 Phase II opening based on the numbers, the city will plan to open the lobbies and buildings with Phase II.
1. City offices and lobbies to reopen: June 1
2. Appointments - Residents and customers may need to have face to face interactions with employees in some instances therefore socially distancing will be required and masks will be provided and residents and customers will be strongly encouraged to wear them while inside the facility. This will be re-evaluated on May 26 for any additions or deletions from this policy.
Employee requirements – safety protocols:
1. Hygiene - All employees have been briefed by supervisors on cleaning and work area disinfection, hand hygiene, and respiratory etiquette.
2. Masks/face coverings –The city is requiring all employees wear a mask that the city has provided or their own. Guidelines have been set out for when and where an employee is required to wear a mask.
3. Screening – All police department and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) employees must be screened at the beginning and end of their shift for temperature;
a) Feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit; or
b) Known close contact with a person who is lab-confirmed to have COVID-19. Any employee who meets any of these criteria should be sent home.
4. Special leave – Employees that are affected by COVID-19 personally or by circumstances within their living arrangement can continue to speak to Human Resources about the special leave and time frames that apply.
5. Upon entering and leaving city facilities, employees are encouraged to wash or sanitize hands.
6. Vehicle sanitation - City vehicles will have a protocol set by directors for daily/shift sanitation steps.
7. Social distancing - Employees must maintain at least six feet separation from one another if at all possible.
a) Work station modifications – Plexiglass or glass separations and dividers will be purchased and installed in areas of Wharton City Hall where multiple employees do not have private areas
8. PRIORITY – Our employees’ safety is the highest priority in all circumstances and our practices and protocol will change as needed to maintain best practices during this time.
City departments: All departments are available during business hours by email, phone and are checking voicemails.
• Airport – Staff continuing to work and airport gates remain locked until further notice.
• Civic Center – Partial staff continue to work but facility remains closed until June 1.
• Emergency Management - Continuing with teleconferences through June 1.
• City Secretary/HR – Continuing with teleconferences until June 1. Appointments in the office are scheduled as needed.
• Wharton Police Department - Continuing with 24/7 operations. PD lobby remains open to public and an intercom system is available. Officer safety is a priority and field protocols for interactions and stops will continue with state orders. Temperatures are taken for all personnel entering the facility.
• Wharton EMS continue 24/7 operations. Modified safety protocols in coordination with personnel will continue to uphold the safest living environment for first responder personnel. P.P.E., transport and treatment protocols will continue by supervisors as long as needed.
• Wharton Volunteer Fire Department continue 24/7 operations. Modified station entry protocols for volunteer and employee safety will continue.
• Municipal Court - All staff is working but lobby remains closed to public until June 1. Hearings have been rescheduled after June 1 and customers are assisted by phone, email, and voicemail during regular business hours.
• Utilities personnel will be present to answer phones and questions. Electronic or dropped payments will be encouraged. Suspension of cutoffs will continue at this time.
• Public Works – Employees will continue to work with new social distancing requirements. Field personnel are provided with masks, if requested, and have been trained and supplied with necessary protections.
• Community Development - Continuing with teleconferences until June 1. Appointments in the office are scheduled as needed. Any bid openings will be held by allowing bidders into Wharton City Hall with social distancing observed.
• Building inspections – Employees will continue to work with new social distancing requirements. Field personnel are provided with masks and have been trained and supplied with necessary protections.
Parks and Park Amenities
• Trail and parks will continue to remain open and masks not required but social distancing for safety is required as by the governor’s order.
• Playground equipment and picnic tables will remain taped off.
• Restrooms will continue to be sanitized daily.
• Wharton Swimming Pool will remain closed for the 2020 season.
City Council and Board Meetings
• City Council will continue to meet with modified and properly social distanced meetings through the end of May. Masks will be provided to all attendees and will be strongly encouraged to wear them while attending the meeting.
• Boards and committee meetings will continue to be suspended until further notice.
Local businesses (essential and non-essential)
• Governor’s: “Open Texas” Guide Book - The reopening plan document is a public document available to all business owners laying out specific guidelines for employees and public to follow to reopen starting May 1. Enforcement will be by the shop owners to follow the state order unless a trespassing incident should occur for safety concerns.
o Phase I 25% occupancy
o Phase II 50% occupancy
• All city facilities that are available for rent have been temporarily suspended and will remain that way until announcement of Phase II.