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News Business City of Milpitas initates action in wake of coronavirus pandemic

City of Milpitas initates action in wake of coronavirus pandemic

Last week’s Milpitas City Council meeting marked a first…

Following the announcement of a shelter-in-place order by the County of Santa Clara, the City of Milpitas held its first-ever virtual City Council meeting to approve temporary emergency pay for City employees and adopt a resolution to ratify an Emergency Proclamation. Along with being able to join the zoom call, residents were also able to tune in and watch the meeting on Facebook Live.   

Last week, on March 17, City Hall was closed down to comply with the shelter-in-place provisions. While some employees were sent home to work remotely, others, such as those in the Recreations department, were sent home without any work to continue. As Police and Fire are essential services, employees in those departments remain, for the most part, unaffected, and still continue to work. 

Council voted unanimously to approve temporary emergency pay (which will also include benefits) for all employees from March 16-April 7. 

“As this coronavirus unfolds, I want to ensure residents that we’re doing everything we can day in and day out, hour by hour, to make sure we are obtaining all the assistance that is made available by those higher governments,” said Mayor Rich Tran, after thanking Interim City Manager Steve McHarris for his leadership, as well as the State for taking action. 

Last week, the City elevated their Pandemic Management Plan to Stage 5, in response to the County’s order. Stage 5, a level of Extremely High Response, called for the closing of City facilities like City Hall, and the suspension of nonessential services and programming. 

The City’s Emergency Operational Center (EOC) also sprung into full effect last week. Composed of a combination of city staff members and fire and police personnel, the team has begun meeting daily via teleconference to check in on essential operations and ensure that their communications with partnering agencies, like the County, are active. The EOC initially formed on March 10, as the City saw COVID-19 numbers in the region start to increase. It formed at a partial capacity, as a way for key department heads, along with fire and police personnel, to start making plans. 

City staff and Council have also been in communication with the Milpitas Unified School District throughout this pandemic. 

“Out of this has come a stronger relationship with the school district. That’s because of the City Manager [McHarris] and Superintendent Cheryl Jordan. It’s important that we develop these relationships and continue them as we move forward, because it helps us  become a stronger city going forward,” said Vice Mayor Bob Nunez in a follow up interview with The Beat. 

Economic Development Director Alex Andrade, who was part of the virtual meeting, spoke for a bit, calling attention to the 3,000+ businesses in Milpitas, which employ a total of 52,000 people. Roughly 75% of these businesses are considered small businesses. Andrade mentioned that he and his department are well aware that these businesses have been hit hard, and that he and his department have thus created a Business Resources page, as well as a Constant Contact list for staying connected and providing resources to business owners during this time. 

At last week’s meeting, Council also decided to form an Economic Development Subcommittee to explore the ways in which the City can support business owners during this time. Councilmembers Carmen Montano and Karina Dominguez will be serving on the Subcommittee, which will have its first virtual meeting today at 4pm. 

Interim City Manager McHarris spoke to The Beat about how the priorities of the City have been altered significantly since initiating their Stage 5 response: “It’s really changed from business as usual to addressing the essential needs of the community,” said McHarris.    

McHarris also spoke a bit about the significance of ratifying the Emergency Proclamation, as it gave the City the ability to act quicker on items, like signing contracts and initiating any other kinds of emergency responses. The Proclamation is also essential for ensuring that the time and resources that the City have put into responding to COVID-19 be reimbursed by FEMA later down the line.  

Along with Police and Fire, the Public Works Department has half of its regular employees working onsite, as they’re providing essential services to the community—among them water, sewer, and making sure traffic lights are in working order. The City’s Senior Nutrition program is also continuing to provide to-go lunches for seniors. At present, 55 seniors participate in this program. In order to comply with social distancing, the City has them entering at staggered times (limited to 10 at a time) to pick up their meals. Permit center services are also still active, but have shifted to being done 100% electronically.  

All of the City’s in-person meetings — which include Board, Commission, and Committee meetings — have been cancelled, and essential meetings will all be done in a virtual format. 

Just yesterday, meanwhile, the City made a decision to close down all Milpitas playgrounds and active amenities (like basketball and tennis courts). The parks will still be open for those who wish to walk, bike, or run, or birdwatch, in accordance with social distancing guidelines.  

Check out the City of Milpitas’ COVID-19 webpage, which is regularly updated.

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Rhoda Shapiro
Rhoda Shapiro works as a journalist and media consultant in the Bay Area. She has written for both the Tri-City Voice and the Mercury News, and is the founder of Chi Media Company, which works with nonprofit organizations to elevate their marketing and communication platforms. Rhoda is also an author; her first book will be published by Llewellyn Worldwide in mid-2019. Her YouTube channel, which features practices in yoga, meditation, and women’s empowerment, has amassed thousands of subscribers. Rhoda is The Milpitas Beat’s founder.
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