Decatur declares public health state of emergency

Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett declared the city in a public health state of emergency during Monday night’s city commission meeting, effective immediately through April 16 unless extended by the commission.

This essentially broadens the mayor’s powers as outlined by the city charter. “I can make decisions in concert with [City Manager] Andrea [Arnold] without getting a city commission vote,” Garrett said after the meeting. “They would be decisions that would have to be made quickly, over a short period.”

Though Monday’s meeting was open to the public only several staffers and reporter showed up, along with a quorum of only three commissioners: Garrett, Mayor Pro Tem Tony Powers and Kelly Walsh. The commission’s newest members, George Dusenbury and Lesa Mayer were absent by commission choice.

Garrett’s declaration was approved by a 3-0 vote.

Garrett said the truncated commission was an attempt to maintain the state mandated 10-feet spacing in a closed area. Plus, Monday featured only one non-controversial agenda item. Garrett admitted that future meetings during the coronavirus outbreak with more complex agendas could require a full five-person commission.

Garrett also announced that beginning Tuesday, March 17 all City of Decatur office buildings are closed to the public. Police, Fire, sanitation and other city services remain fully operational.

The Ebster and Decatur Recreation Centers are closed, Oakhurst indoor pool is closed, and though all parks remain open the playgrounds are off limits.

Other changes of note:

• The police department is closed to public; however, if one requires an in-person visit, press the front door intercom button and an officer will answer. Patrol function and 911 will operate as normal.

• Municipal court session are canceled through April 13

• The Decatur Visitors Center is closed.

• A 30-minute grace period on all city parking meters will take effect, probably beginning Tuesday. This is to encourage residents to order take-out food only

Though Brookhaven, for instance, allows only takeout, and no in-restaurant dining in their emergency state, Garrett said she wasn’t yet ready to make that call. Though she admitted a preference for curbside service, she prefers the state or county make that decision.

As of Monday there are 10 reported cases of coronavirus in DeKalb County, or about 8 percent of the Georgia total. Garrett said the DeKalb County Health Department, the city’s official source of information, doesn’t provide any data beyond the county level, so she doesn’t know if there are any Decatur cases.