The City of Charlottetown is locking the doors to all of its buildings in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) outbreak.
Mayor Philip Brown held a press conference at City Hall on Tuesday afternoon, flanked by police chief Paul Smith and fire chief Randy MacDonald.
Effective Wednesday, the city will be restricting public access to the public works garage on MacAleer Drive, both fire stations, the police station, City Hall, the planning and heritage offices on Queen Street and the city’s wastewater treatment plant on Riverside Drive.
The city is also cancelling all advisory committee meetings, public meetings and standing committee meetings until further notice. The desks inside council chambers have been disinfected while the desks have been moved around to give the councillor more space between them in the event council has to meet. Brown said members of council also have the option of participating by calling in.
Custodial staff have stepped up cleaning and sanitation efforts in city-owned buildings and extra staff has been brought on.
Administration has begun the process of identifying staff that might be able to work from home, although Brown said there are issues with internet security that have to be worked out. The switchboard at City Hall will continue to be staffed.
“These are unprecedented times for our city, for P.E.I., for our nation and for the world,’’ Brown said. “We know people are nervous. We remind everyone to stay calm and remain vigilant.’’
Brown said he has been in contact with the mayors of Stratford and Cornwall as well as provincial MLAs and federal MPs to ensure everyone is on the same page. The mayor is also maintaining an open line of communication with the Charlottetown Airport Authority, Port Charlottetown and the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce.
Police chief Paul Smith said they’ve stopped processing all criminal record checks for the time being, adding that anyone who still needs the service should reach out to either C5 ID at 393 University Ave. or Global ID Service at 119 Kent St.
“In an effort to reduce contact and encourage social distancing, access to our police services building is being restricted,’’ Smith said. “The public can do things online, like paying utility bills or parking tickets.’’
Anyone who wishes to file a police report is encouraged to call 902-629-4172.
Smith added that the safety of the officers has also been addressed. Furniture has been moved around inside the building to create more social distance while disinfection supplies have been put in all police vehicles. But Smith acknowledged sometimes matters can get out of hand. Officers have been spit on before. He said officers do have equipment to deal with those situations.
Fire chief Randy MacDonald said when it comes to responding to calls, the majority of which are automatic alarms, only two firefighters will be sent in initially and they will be fully clothed in protective equipment. If they are notified that someone is contagious in the building, they will enter with full gear, which includes an oxygen tank and mask.
Brown said other city staff, such as with public works, will be provided with masks and protective gloves.
T3 Transit is considered an essential service and will continue to operate but will buses will be operating at 50 per cent capacity and all passengers must be seated. Drivers have been instructed to clean the buses at least seven times a day.
Ice will soon be removed from Simmons Sport Centre and Cody Banks Arena while the board of directors at Eastlink Centre is working on the issue. Brown said Bell Aliant Centre is looking at closing one of the rinks and the pool has been shut down.
As for parking meters, Smith said nothing changes, at least for now.
“This is a pretty fluid situation so we will address our service levels as we go forward but . . .right now, we’re still status quo. We are evaluating things every day.’’
Two upcoming public meetings will likely go ahead. One is Tuesday, March 24 where council needs to deal with UPEI’s request for a zoning amendment for a proposed nine-storey student residence while the annual municipal budget is still scheduled to be delivered on Friday, March 27.