The Ames City Council voted to continue future meetings electronically until further notice due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The meeting took place electronically at 6 p.m. March 24.
In addition to the meetings, the Council also discussed how future meetings will take place — if the public’s physical access to the meetings will change and whether they should be replaced by phone call-ins or emails in order to provide input at legally required hearings as well as if the public hearings should apply to just the public hearing items or all agenda items.
The Council voted on continuing the Board, Commission and Council meetings through an electronic format, such as Zoom — a program that provides a remote conferencing service that combines video conferencing, online meetings, chat and mobile collaboration.
“If we believe in them that we can deliver it properly, the best interest of the city, electronically over video format, then it seems like we can continue to work with these workshops as well,” said Ward 4 Rep. Tim Gartin. “There's going to be a lot of things that we'll have to push off the schedule because of COVID-19, but to the degree we can maintain some normalcy and keep projects moving I think we should try and do that.”
The Council also decided to keep the public forum and hearing on the regular agenda.
Updates related to COVID-19 will be posted on the city website.
In addition to the city related meetings, the Council also discussed temporary revisions to Employee Leave Policy due to COVID-19. On the federal level, a measure was approved expanding employee’s access to pay due to COVID-19.
The Family Medical Leave Act is specific to families who need to take care of children due to schools and day care closures, and Family’s First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) is Congress’ response to the pandemic.
“It provides some pretty detailed provisions and requirements for employers to provide some paid leave to employees — it's generally about two weeks, 80 hours is what is specified in the law,” said Bethany Jorgenson, human resources director for the city of Ames. “We've created a policy that meets or exceeds the requirements of the FFCRA. This would be a temporary amendment to the city's own leave policies, and what this would do is it would allow this extra leave for a finite period of time.”
The federal policy will expire on Dec. 31, which the city of Ames will also follow.
“In essence what this would be is providing up to 80 hours of COVID-19 leave, that's what we've written into our policy for employees who have been either required or advised to quarantine by a medical provider or a state, county or federal agency or who has been advised by a medical provider that they have confirmed or presumptively confirmed COVID-19,” Jorgenson said.
Employees will have to reach out to medical providers if they have COVID-19.
The Council voted to approve temporary revisions to Employee Leave Policy due to COVID-19.
The Council then approved the development for MetroNet, an internet company that provides new fiber-optic services. Fiber-optic internet has data that is transferred through cables made out of thin glass or plastic fibers in the form of light signals in order to provide faster internet.
The Council approved the proposed major site development plan for MetroNet, while the construction of the tower would also require approval, and added it onto the next agenda to gain input from the owner of the property where MetroNet plans to develop.