Breckenridge Texan

City closes park, takes other actions after extending declaration of local disaster prompted by coronavirus

City closes park, takes other actions after extending declaration of local disaster prompted by coronavirus
March 23
21:13 2020

City of Breckenridge officials closed the city’s parks following the approval of an extension of the Declaration of Local Disaster Due to Public Health Emergency during a special called meeting this morning, Monday, March 23.

The seven-day declaration had been put in place by Mayor Bob Sims in conjunction with an emergency press conference hosted by the City, Stephens County and school district on March 16 regarding local attempts to prevent or slow the spread of the novel (new) coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease it causes. Monday’s special meeting was called because the seven-day declaration by the mayor was set to expire before the commissioners’ regular meeting in April and they couldn’t wait until then. Click the following link to read the declaration: Declaration of Local Disaster-CityofBreckenridge

According to officials, nine local people have been tested for the virus, but none of the results have come back. There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Stephens County, but there are cases in several area counties, including Eastland County. And, officials have been advised to act as if the virus has been detected here and is spreading.

City Manager Andy McCuistion said now that the updated declaration has been approved by the commission, it will stay in place until they vote to rescind it.

“We’re following the county’s lead in all this,” McCuistion told commissioners. “We’re paralleling whatever they’re doing, so we’re asking that the council approve this.”

Following the vote, City Commissioner Rob Durham asked McCuistion if, once the declaration is put into place, it means that the City of Breckenridge will function by following suggestions and orders from the Governor’s Office.

McCuistion explained that the city was required to follow the governor’s requirements, but that what he had read earlier was that the mayor and commission can be more restrictive than the state is.

“We’ve got some latitude in how we deal with this locally,” he said.

One of the problems the City experienced after the original disaster declaration — and after Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order limiting social gatherings to no more than 10 people was put in place last Thursday — was that people continued to get together in large groups, especially in the city’s parks, increasing the chances of spreading COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

After the disaster declaration was extended, local officials decided to close the parks, including the Breckenridge City Park, the skate park, the walking trail, the Trade Barn and the baseball fields.

“All those kids think this is a holiday or a vacation or spring break and it’s not,” McCuistion said. “They’re defeating the purpose of this whole thing (attempts to slow the spread of the disease). So, we’re trying to enforce what we’re trying to do here.”

At another meeting Monday afternoon, in which City and County officials announced a shelter-in-place order for the community, McCuistion said signs have been placed throughout the parks, notifying visitors that the areas are closed. Click here to read more about the shelter-in-place order.

McCuisiton said although the County chose to close the courthouse beginning today, city offices will remain open. However, he said, last week they started restricting access to the building, closing all outside doors, except the main entrance in the front.

“Because we’re set up differently than the county, we’re going to try to continue taking business inside the lobby there, but we’ve got that lobby blocked off, where that’s the only place people can do business,” McCuistion said.

He said if a citizen has business with another department in the building, a City employee will go get the person to meet with the customer in the lobby. By restricting visitors to the lobby, the staff more easily keep the area disinfected.

“We wipe down all the contacts, the counters and all that twice a day. We’ve got heavy industrial-grade chemicals that we use for that, and we can do it more often….minimum of two times a day,” McCuistion said. “And we’ve got that glass shield on that front area up there. We think that gives some measure of protection.”

McCuistion said that until they a get a confirmed case in the city, the city will probably continue operating that way to try and give the best protection to employees and the public by keeping the barrier between them.

“We’re going to take it one day at a time and re-evaluate as things occur,” he said.

Click here to visit the Breckenridge Texan’s Coronavirus News page.


Story by Tony Pilkington and Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

Cutline, top photo: Signs have been placed at various entry points into the City Park, notifying visitors that the park is closed as part of the disaster declaration for Breckenridge. The action was taken as a precaution against COVID-19. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

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