Asheville details public safety steps for March 24 meeting of City Council; no public attendance

Press release from the city of Asheville:

As the City of Asheville continues to work through the COVID-19 public health emergency,  we want to make our residents aware of our modified operations, especially regarding how they can participate in their City government.

Taking into consideration CDC, N.C. Department of Health and Human Service and Buncombe County Health and Human Services recommendations on social distancing and measures taken across the nation to include travel bans, school closures, quarantines, and event cancellations, the City is taking the following measures until further notice.

  • Due to the locally declared State of Emergency, there will be no public attendance at City Council meetings.

  • Public comment will be taken digitally on all items, with the following guidelines:  (1) any public comment must be sent in by 5 p.m. the day before the meeting to this google form or by calling  828-259-5900 and leaving a voicemail; (2) must state which agenda item you are commenting on, or if it is for informal discussion; and (3) must be no more than 350 words.

Mayor Esther Manheimer, Councilwoman Sheneika Smith and Councilman Keith Young will participate fully in this meeting by phone, including any public hearings and votes.

This is in keeping with Asheville’s March 19 amended State of Emergency proclamation limiting gatherings to 10 on City-owned property, done to encourage social distancing to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

It is also aligned with Section (f) of the State of Emergency proclamation, which excludes attendance at public City Council meetings from the 10-person maximum.  This exclusion allows the City to comply with state law regarding open meetings, and allows City business to continue as needed. However, all efforts will be taken to limit the amount of attendees at these meetings during the duration of this emergency event.

This is a temporary measure for the health and safety of everyone, as we collectively work through social distancing techniques to prevent the spread of COVID-19, taking into consideration  guidance from the CDC, N.C. Department of Health and Human Service and Buncombe County Health and Human Sources.

The March 24 Council meeting will be an abbreviated meeting. No public hearings will be held. Here is a link to the agenda. The budget briefing originally scheduled for 3 p.m. has been cancelled. We encourage everyone to watch the City Council meeting via the City’s live stream at this link.

Please be aware that this guidance could change, as this is a rapidly evolving national and local health emergency.

We also want to make everyone aware that all Council Committee meetings are cancelled until further notice.  Boards, Commissions and Advisory Committees are also cancelled until further notice with the exception of quasi-judicial boards such as Planning and Zoning, Board of Adjustments and Historic Resources. More information about this will be shared in the near future.

The top priority is to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and avoid overwhelming our healthcare network.

Toward that end, City Hall and other municipal buildings were closed to the public as of March 17. Employees who are able to complete their work offsite during this COVID-19 public health emergency are working remotely in a telecommuting mode. Staff have remote access to hold meetings, respond to phone calls and emails.

All essential police, fire, sanitation, transit and water services are being maintained as we continue to serve and protect this community.

We continue to coordinate City response with Buncombe County and State officials. Members of the City Manager’s Office, Public Safety and Communication & Public Engagement attend daily meetings with County and State officials.

These actions are all designed with public health in mind, as we pull together to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

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