City of Lanett holds virtual council meeting

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, April 8, 2020

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LANETT — With Alabama being under a stay at home order, the Lanett City Council had a rather unusual meeting Monday evening. It was done with Zoom video conferencing and most city officials took part from home.

Mayor Kyle McCoy and Planning and Development Director Tony Chandler took part in the video conference from their offices at city hall.

Among those participating by h0me computer were council members Charles Looser, Shirley Motley, Angelia Thomas, Jamie Heard and Tony Malone. City Attorney Stanley Gray, Chambers County Development Authority (CCDA) Executive Director Valerie Gray and Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Carrie Royster also took part via computer connection. Local media representatives watched the meeting on a big screen TV in the conference room at city hall.

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“This is our first virtual meeting,” McCoy said. “We’ve worked on this to get the bugs out. I hope it goes well. It’s a good way to show that the City of Lanett is functioning normally in difficult times.”

Members of the council extended sympathy to local families who have lost loved ones during this COVID-19 crisis.

“Our hearts go out to local churches, especially Mount Hermon Baptist,” said Council Member Tony Malone, “I want to thank the mayor for keeping us informed with all that’s happening in the city. I’ve noticed that traffic well below what you normally see. I suppose that means people are staying home for the most part, and that’s good. This is a time when we all have to keep the faith until the end.”

Council Member Jamie Heard urged all residents to follow safety guidelines and to be safe.

Council Member Charles Looser thanked everyone for their expressions of condolence on the recent passing of his sister.

“She was a wonderful lady,” said McCoy. “We are saddened by the loss.”

“We are praying for the members of Mount Hermon,” said Council Member Angelia Thomas. “People need to stay home as much as possible.”

Since there’s not yet a vaccine to deal with the coronavirus, public health professionals are urging citizens all across the U.S. to stay home except for necessary trips to the grocery store, the drug store and other such essential trips.

When one does leave home, the Centers for Disease Control is recommending the wearing of a face covering or mask.

CCDA Director Valerie Gray told the council that the CCDA staff is staying at home as much as possible and is having virtual meetings.

“We are handling between 25 to 40 phone calls every day this way,” she said. “We are looking at ways to help small businesses. We will be talking with Congressman Mike Rogers about SBA (Small Business Administration) loans. We will be getting out information on this.”

Gray said that some 400 SBA claims had been filed locally.

“Things are changing on this every day,” she said. “We would like for this process to be as fluid as it can be. It’s a lot of work for the information to be current and factual.”

Council Member Malone asked Gray what kind of impact would be made on the U.S. economy if it is shut down for an extended period.

Gray said that essential businesses would stay open but the lack of fully functioning commerce would be taking a toll. Local governments, she said, will be seeing this as they prepare budgets for fiscal year 2021. She said that a shutdown that could linger for two or three months would be a major problem.

“That’s why we need to stay home and be safe as much as we can right now,” she said.

Council Member Thomas asked Gray why some local industries were staying open. “They have to follow safety protocols to stay open,” Gray said. “This involves sanitizing and social distancing. Employees who have a cough or who don’t feel well are asked to call in. Ninety-nine percent of the time they will ask you to stay home. Manufacturing is considered an essential business, according to the governor’s stay at home order.”

Royster said the Chamber had been very busy up until mid-March. The annual St. Paddy’s Day on the River took place on Saturday, March 14 and was well attended. Prior to that, the Chamber had held a number of ribbon cuttings for new businesses, a Catch Up Over Coffee event and a Lunch N Learn event on the topic of cyber security.

Some events planned for April and May have been canceled. These include the annual education awards dinner, a first responders breakfast and an active shooter training session.

“Our office is closed, but we are continuing to work at home,” Royster said. “Our junior ambassador events have been postponed. We hope to have them up and running in several months.”

McCoy displayed several new signs that will be going up in high-traffic areas of the city such as Kroger and Piggly Wiggly.

One sign encourages people to follow five steps when washing their hands: (1) wet hands and apply soap, (2) lather your hands, (3) scrub for 20 seconds or more, (4) rinse hands and (5) dry them.

Other signs depict ways of slowing the spread and proper social distancing.

“We are doing this to help the citizens be safe and to stay healthy,” McCoy said. “The governor has closed everything but essential services through the month of April. We will have to do what’s necessary to get through this.”

The mayor thanked everyone for taking part in the new virtual format.

“We will be doing this again at our April 20 meeting,” he said.

McCoy said that city hall would be closed on Friday, April 10 and Monday, April 13. The building will be going through four days of thorough cleaning and sanitizing.

“We will reopen at 8:30 a.m. next Tuesday,” he said. “I want to thank everyone for doing it this way tonight. Thank you and be safe.”