Milton’s City Council on May 18 approved an amended Emergency Ordinance that paves the way for a return to something closer to normal, part of steady progress allowing for the resumption of policy-making, regulatory and other key government functions.
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic and related local emergency, the City government has functioned effectively and efficiently. Community Development Director Parag Agrawal, for instance, noted that his department has seen an increase of 10 to 15 percent in activity for things like inspections and permits. Yet there have been notable limits like closing City offices to public access, restricting park use, halting recreation programs and not holding various board and committee meetings.
On Monday, the City Council unanimously passed an amended Emergency Ordinance that – among other aspects – includes the passage of what Emergency Manager Matt Marietta called the “Milton Reopening Plan.” This approach is based on CDC guidelines and other federal guidelines, as well as the direction of Gov. Brian Kemp’s Executive Orders. The aim is for Milton’s approach to be no more strict and no more lenient than the state’s approach, explained City Attorney Ken Jarrard.
The plan calls for a phased approach. Phase One, which now takes effect, allows for limited gatherings of City employees and affirms the reopening of “active” components of City parks, as was done recently. Perhaps most significantly, it ends restrictions in past Emergency Ordinances that had prevented groups like Milton’s Design Review Board, Board of Zoning Appeals, and other committees from meeting and voting.
Phase Two tentatively could take effect after June 12 – when the City’s Emergency Ordinance and the state public health emergency declared by Gov. Kemp are set to expire – so long as there is not evidence of a rebound in COVID-19. It would allow increased in-person activity in City Hall and more Parks and Recreation offerings, though core facilities would remain closed to the public and social distancing would continue be encouraged.
There’s no estimated date yet for Phase Three, which permits the resumption of City events and regular operations at City Hall. Phase Four would be a complete return to normal.
Passage of the Milton Reopening Plan was part of the overall amended Emergency Ordinance. This measure extends previously approval Mayoral declarations tied to the emergency, such as letting restaurants sell to-go beer and wine and establishments to erect certain temporary signage. And it doesn’t include previous language restricting certain public hearings and decisions on regulatory permit issues, zoning, strategic planning and other measures.
The Ordinance also gives the City more flexibility to modify rules related to citizens’ official interactions with the Council. For example, people might now be able to email comments to the Council that could be read into the record without having to attend meetings in person.
Lastly, the Ordinance waives the 15% fee the City’s Parks and Recreation Department usually charges sports program providers (to offset costs related to field maintenance and other matters) related to the largely canceled spring season.
Some of the most spirited discussion followed Public Works Director Robert Drewry’s discussion of plans to create a walking trail in the “North Woods” of the former Milton Country Club.
Most of the City-owned property has been set aside for the “passive use” – meaning no major buildings, courts, or other structures. Last August, the Council approved a master plan for the Milton Country Club laying out what it will look like and how it will be used.
Right now, Drewry noted, the property is not open to the public due to numerous hazards that render it unsafe. He pointed specifically to bridge and storm system failures, among other issues.
The City plans to put the first phases of the project out for bid in the next few weeks, with work on it starting this summer. Phase 1A calls for repurposing parts of the existing cart path, filling in gaps in the trail and various other measures. Phase 1B puts in a sidepath along Dinsmore Road.
Several Council members asked if portions of the property could open to people sooner than others. Drewry said, for safety and construction reasons, that may be challenging.
Two special guests spoke at Monday’s meeting – Cambridge High Principal Kim Premoli and Milton High Principal Brian Jones, the heads of the two public high schools in Milton – in conjunction with a Council-approved proclamation honoring high school graduates in the City.
The proclamation recognized seniors who “have worked diligently and excelled during their academic careers” and those who “have consistently shown exemplary character and been credits to our community.”
The Council also unanimously approved a number of other measures, including:
The City Council’s next meeting is scheduled for June 1.