WALLA WALLA – While city departments are closed to the public, the city of Walla Walla is still operating. That’s the message Walla Walla City Manager Nabiel Shawa wants residents to know.
Shawa said the city will continue to provide essential services, including utilities, police and fire, following Gov. Jay Inslee issuing Monday his order to slow the spread of COVID-1. The “Stay home, stay health” order will remain in place for at least the next two weeks.
On Tuesday, Shawa said the governor issued another proclamation prohibiting in-person meetings and restricting city councils to only address routine items related to the COVID-19 crisis.
“So we really only conducted construction contract related issues that are routine, paying of the bills and then some additional actions on COVID-19 response,” Shawa said of the Wednesday night meeting.
An item calling for waiving library fines for children was removed from the agenda as Shawa explained the city attorney did not feel that the item was routine. It will be back on a future agenda after April 23, when the governor’s proclamation expires. Council did approve an ordinance authorizing Shawa to handle delinquent city utility accounts during emergencies
“As we work through this and understand the significant impacts to many of our citizens and families, the city will not be implementing delinquency fees and penalties for those that have been impacted by COVID-19,” Shawa said.
There are some city services that have shut down.
“We cut out all our recreation programs for the time being,” he said. “We had to take additional steps per the governor’s orders this week. We’ve shut down the playground equipment now. We’re asking folks not to use the playground equipment because that’s a great point of potential spread with everybody climbing on the monkey bars and toys.”
Shawa added the pickle ball courts and skateboard parks have also been closed.
“The parks are still open, come out walk, walk the dog, jog, run, enjoy the parks – just practice social distancing,” he said. Due to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s closure of recreational fishing, the city has now closed Jefferson Park pond for fishing.