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Municipal councils adjust

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Since the province’s first case of covid-19 infection was announced Mar. 12, Dauphin’s municipal councils have been adjusting operations in response.
“We started to see some more urgent messaging coming out from the province and we were following the leads and the guidance of the province, wanting to protect our staff and our public,” city manager Sharla Griffiths said.
The RM responded for the same reasons, added CAO Nicole Chychota.
“Council has been watching the situation for at least a few weeks here now and heeding the warnings from the provincial government, the suggestions they’ve been having about practicing social distancing.” Chychota said.
“Council decided that it was a good time for us to take action and that it was better for us to try to get ahead of this issue than wait too long.”
Both the City and RM of Dauphin have closed their offices and public works shops to the general public. Payments of bills at both municipalities can be made through the drop-off facilities provided at each office or through local financial institutions.
Both offices remain available for communication via telephone or email for services such as, in the case of the RM, burning permits.
Additionally, the Dauphin Fire Hall will be closed to the public. Fire services will operate as usual.
At this point public works and utility services remain unaffected other than the way municipal staff will interact with the public.
“Our public works department is already practicing social distancing measures and we have them continuing to sanitize their equipment and any contact points in the shop,” Chychota said.
“So for right now I think what we’re doing is sufficient.”
As a precaution, the RM is asking residents to put their own garbage and recycling in the bins at the RM office rather than having staff do it for them. People who are unable to do so, should make arrangements for someone to bring their garbage in for them.
“Additionally, if you have recently travelled or are experiencing flu-like symptoms, we ask that you please have someone else bring your garbage to the waste disposal site for you,” Chychota said.
Griffiths added with the pandemic being a medical issue, Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living and Prairie Mountain Health are taking the lead in managing the situation.
“We have been reviewing the emergency plan and, in terms of a pandemic, a lot of it has to do with getting messaging out to make sure that people are educated about what they need to do. So we are helping to do that right now,” Griffiths said.
With the pandemic causing financial hardship for many, Griffiths said city council is discussing the need for deferral periods for utility and property tax payments.
“We’re going to look at that as the due deadlines come up. We are offering opportunities for people to pay in other ways like just our drop-off or through their banking institutions in terms of water bills. And then taxes are not due until the end of July so we’ll review that at that time,” she said.
“So those are things I think that we are going to be considering as they come up.”
RM council is taking much the same approach, Chychota said.
“For utility payments we’re willing to discuss the options with people on a one-on-one basis,” she said.
“The RM of Dauphin is fortunate that our taxes aren’t actually due until October, so we’re hoping that isn’t impacted by this pandemic. But council will review that and we’ll make changes if it becomes necessary to do so.”