The City of Pleasanton anticipates the COVID-19 pandemic will cost the city between $3 to $5 million to meet the need for medical and essential services.
In a special meeting held March 23, City Manager Nelson Fialho reported on Pleasanton’s COVID-19 response and preparedness efforts, indicating the impact and magnitude of the budget reductions are being developed and will be reviewed by the council in the coming weeks.
“There are some new and emerging issues we plan to address with the council with special meetings,” Fialho said. “We’re estimating the financial impacts between now and end of June will range between $3 and $5 million, so the budget we just adjusted may require another significant adjustment; once we get a handle on that, we’ll bring that to the council.”
In an email to The Independent, Fialho said the estimate is very preliminary and will continue to get refined for the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1.
Prior to addressing two pressing consent items on the special meeting agenda, Fialho outlined the local COVID-19 crisis. He updated the council on the numbers of confirmed cases in the county (which as of March 30 stood at 7 deaths and 264 people infected). All 13 hospitals in the county have expanded emergency capacities, including Stanford Health Care - Valley Care Hospital, with which Fialho is in daily communication.
Stanford Health Care - Valley Care is also offering mobile testing for those with a doctor’s order. Priority testing for first responders is being finalized. Fialho noted the city is working with the other federal, state and county agencies to create a test facility at the Alameda Fairgrounds. The county has secured two hotels to accommodate 400 individuals who are medically fragile, ill or unsheltered.
While regular Pleasanton City Council meetings have been canceled through mid-April, the board was able to meet with proper social distancing in place. Mayor Jerry Thorne and councilmembers Karla Brown and Julie Testa attended as virtual participants, while those who attended in person were seated six feet apart.
The council deliberated over a particular item on the agenda: a proclamation to give additional authority to the city manager to award nonemergency-related contracts and execute agreements on behalf of the city during the crisis. Councilmember Julie Testa expressed concern for the open-ended language in the proclamation.
“Do we intend to have City Council meetings? Beyond emergency services, I’m not sure why this would be needed if we have the ability to continue to have council meetings,” Testa said, after noting her appreciation of being able to meet virtually to keep the city running.
Testa further stated the emergency could possibly last months longer than the projected April date. Fialho clarified that while special meetings will continue to take place, regular board meetings have been canceled through April 17 and regular meetings could resume in a remote capacity if necessary. He added that the council would receive updates on all spending during the crisis.
“This is for all types of contracts needed to run the day-to-day operations of the city, including closing out public works projects that need to be paid out, payroll and financial reports that need to be acknowledged…,” Fialho said. “This gives me the ability to officiate the business of the city during this interim period.”
Vice Mayor Kathy Narum said the measure would ensure the city keeps running.
“Conversely, we could revoke (the authority) sooner if (the crisis) ends,” she added.
Testa then made the motion to approve the resolution with the added amendment for the language to indicate Fialho’s authority to award contracts would sunset after April 17 unless otherwise extended by the council.
The council also voted to approve a resolution confirming the proclamation of the existence of a local emergency as submitted by Fialho, who, per municipal code, is also acting as the director of emergency services. The proclamation allows Fialho to purchase supplies, equipment and services needed to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 emergency. Addressing several residents’ concerns for the lack of social distancing at area playgrounds, Councilmember Jerry Pentin added an amendment to the item, giving Fialho the authority to close parks should local amenities continue to see unsafe congestion.
“I want to give you the latitude to make that decision based on, one, safety, and, two, health,” Pentin said to Fialho.
As of March 30, the city has allowed parks to remain open, but signs informing the public that the structures are not being sanitized were installed. To close out, Brown – along with the mayor, vice mayor and her fellow councilmembers – expressed appreciation to city, staff and first responders.
“I wanted to thank staff, especially the city manager,” Brown said. “You’re working around the clock, and those of us who are communicating with you recognize you and your staff and the police and fire are working extremely long hours. I want to express my appreciation. I know some of this is done even at the risk of your own health, and I want you to know how much we appreciate it.”
To view agenda materials from the March 23 special meeting, visit https://bit.ly/2UWdGyK.