By Collin Breaux | Email: cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com | Twitter: @collin_breaux

The San Juan Capistrano City Council unanimously approved a resolution ratifying the city manager’s proclamation of a local emergency during a regular meeting on Tuesday, March 17. The declaration facilitates the city’s abilities to request financial aid and reimbursement from the State Office of Emergency Services and FEMA for coronavirus response efforts and costs.

Like many other places in California and throughout the world, San Juan Capistrano is dealing with effects from the pandemic, which has caused concerns and disrupted aspects of daily life, including discouraging social interaction to halt the spread of coronavirus.

The public was encouraged to watch the March 17 meeting live on the city website instead of attending in person. The video of the meeting shows rows of chairs mostly empty except for a few people in the audience, and live streaming lagged for some viewers due to increased online traffic.

“To help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, we would like to encourage the public to view council meetings until further notice live on the city’s website,” Mayor Troy Bourne said. “This is especially important if you or someone you had direct contact with has traveled internationally to a country experiencing COVID-19; if you’ve tested positive yourself or (are) experiencing flu-like symptoms; or if you’re over the age of 60 or have other underlying health conditions.

“If you cannot attend, you may submit agenda item correspondence to the city council electronically and to the city clerk, whose contact information is on the city website.”

The city’s website is sanjuancapistrano.org. Bourne also discouraged people from submitting hard copies of correspondence material, and instead encouraged people to email materials ahead of the time to the city clerk. People who do attend meetings in person are advised to maintain a distance of at least six feet from others in accordance with social distancing guidelines.

City Manager Ben Siegel declared a local emergency on Monday, March 16. City staff members are maintaining close communication with the County’s Health Care Agency and emergency managers, according to a March 18 update from the city.

“While risk levels within the County of Orange are still low, the City of San Juan Capistrano is actively engaged in preparations in the event additional guidance on COVID-19 prevention is issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH),” the March 18 update said. “We will continue to take the appropriate steps in order to protect the health and safety of our residents, visitors and business community.”

As for building and safety services, project submittal, plan check and permit issuance will be processed over the phone or via email. Payments for water and sewer bills can be made in several ways, including online or placing them in the drop box in front of city hall.

The public is encouraged to check sanjuancapistrano.org for updates and resource information. City Hall, the Utilities Building, the Community Center and the Police Services administrative building (“Dance Hall”) were closed to the public for seven days effective on Monday, March 16.

“This decision will be re-evaluated in a week to determine if an extension is warranted,” the city website said. “All City employees will report to work as usual and conduct City business by phone and email.”

Other items scheduled for the March 17 meeting agenda, including a Deputy of the Year presentation, were rescheduled for future meetings.

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