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Members of the public address the Ellensburg School District School Board at a meeting in 2019. The Ellensburg School Board and other public councils, boards and commissions are exploring ways to conduct public business under COVID-19 guidelines.

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The city of Ellensburg is working to put everybody on the same page, just not in the same room, as it moves forward into a virtual world to comply with Gov. Jay Inslee’s action calling for even stricter protocols to social distancing — helping state boards, commissions and councils, and local governments keep non-COVID 19 business to a minimum.

Community Development, building permits and other assorted city business will continue online. City council meetings and staff interaction will become a Facetime feature, Mayor Bruce Tabb said.

“I never did think this was going to go away in 30 days. Part of what we’re doing is extending the social distancing, but continue to do business,” Tabb said. “In terms of must-haves, we need to make sure the public is still able to process applications and doing as much as they can online.

“We have different pieces coming into place and from the council’s perspective, it’s just about supporting staff to make sure we’re doing what we have to do to move forward.

Business as usual has become business by committee and the art of brainstorming ideas to move forward with a productive business plan.

“We’ve been tracking other communities that have already dealt with much of what we’re preparing for. How do we do these virtual meetings? How do we make it work for people and how do you continue to conduct the business of the city?” Tabb said. “I’m comfortable between (city manager) John Akers and (city attorney) Terry Weiner with what we can and cannot do legally.

“What we’ve been talking about is Facetime and some type of video conferencing capacity.”

The next Ellensburg City Council meeting is April 6. The city has 14 different commissions and committees, including: Affordable Housing, Arts Commission, Building Appeals Board, Civil Service Commission, Ellensburg Business Development, Environmental Commission, Landmarks & Design, Library Board, Lodging Tax Advisory, Senior Citizens Advisory and Utility Advisory.

“We feel under the declaration of emergency we can put off some of these committee meetings until further notice and focus on the immediate needs to run the city,” Tabb said.

Cities, counties and the country in general are swimming in uncharted waters with different ways to keep moving forward during one of the COVID-19 crisis. But city and business leaders have been brainstorming to come up with different plans of attack to assist with the situation through social support.

“What we have been doing is talking with the county to make sure people are part of the social support network,” the mayor said. “We’ll be meeting (on Tuesday) to discuss how do we coordinate those actions, if people want to support each other, there’s a place for people to go.

“There’s been a high level of cooperation. I talked the chamber of commerce to discuss what government can do to help support small businesses and help get them through this. What you’re seeing is people coming together to really support our community and what we have available. Those pieces are really going to be important.”

ELLENSBURG SCHOOL BOARD

The Ellensburg School Board plans to continue having public meetings, but not in person.

Board president Tosha Woods said they are looking for ways to legally have public meetings online. The board doesn’t have another meeting scheduled until the April 8, so they have some time to find a solution to this problem.

Woods said she doesn’t have a timeline for when they expect a solution, but will make an announcement when they do.

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