EASTON, Pa. – The city of Easton will rise again, says Mayor Sal Panto in response to the recent worldwide outbreak of COVID-19.
Easton City Council approved a resolution 6-0 Wednesday, furthering the mayor’s executive power with the virus in full swing. Missing from the vote due to some technical telephone issues was Councilman James Edinger. Panto, along with four city administrators were on hand at council chambers practicing social distancing for the meeting. Council members phoned into the meeting to discuss city matters.
“Two weeks ago, we were a city that was alive and well with an economy that was growing and thriving,” Panto said.
Calling the coronavirus one of the world’s “greatest health threats,” Panto said the city is “fully committed to helping.”
Under the resolution, public access to the city municipal building remains closed. However, municipal employees are working, either remote or at the various city buildings while practicing social distancing and altered schedules.
According to City Administrator Luis Campos, the city has also begun looking at ways to reduce spending up to 5% all around, except for the five vacancies in the police department.
“The city has been working with unions to make sure that this is done without diminishing workforce,” he said.
Campos said large construction projects and road construction expenses will be put on hold for at least 30 days.
“We are looking at additional cuts if possible,” Campos said. “We are working with department heads to see where this could be made.”
The resolution also calls for sporting events, schools, local businesses – aside from essential ones like grocery stores and laundry mats – to remain canceled and/or closed. The outdoor Winter Farmers Market, however, will remain open for curbside service. But social distancing will remain as an advisable practice.
Additionally, parks will remain open provided residents practice social distancing. Panto also advised that parents and guardians disinfect playground surfaces prior to and following play by children.
The mayor also expressed concern over New York residents coming into the city for extended stays.
“Concerning New York residents, fleeing and coming to stay here in Easton, I’m asking host families to make sure visitors are self-quarantined for at least 14 days,” Panto said.
More than 50% of recent COVID-19 cases in the nation have come from New York according to the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Panto also said with a projected revenue loss of more than $1 million in the next four weeks, the city is hoping to aid small businesses.
The mayor has authorized that 15-minute parking spots in front of small businesses be offered for curbside pickup. In addition, the Lehigh Valley Economy Development Corporation has agreed to provide small business loans with no interest for one year.
Residents with vehicles will also be allowed to park in the city garages until the end of March at no charge. In addition, booting of vehicles will not be permitted until the end of March and late fees and penalties on citations will be suspended until April 15 with a possible extension.
The mayor added, “We are rovers and will remain Rover strong.”