Statement from City Manager Craig Owens on coronavirus (COVID-19)

Maureen BradyCity, City Manager

As previously shared during the City Commission meeting on Tuesday, March 17. 

Thank you, Mayor Ananda.

I want to echo the Mayor’s sentiments about doing everything we can to prevent the spread of this virus – and I also want to give a brief update as to steps the City is taking to continue providing excellent core services and to keep our employees and our residents safe.

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues, our Lawrence community is continuing to show common sense, strength and a remarkable compassion for others. We’ve seen countless businesses and individuals make sacrifices for the common good, and we thank you for everything you’ve done to help prevent the spread. We know this is a difficult time, but we’re confident that by continuing to work together and showing resiliency, creativity and flexibility, we will come out as an even stronger community on the other side.

As Mayor Ananda shared, we are keeping everyone updated with coronavirus efforts via our dedicated page on the City website. We hope that this can serve as a repository for any questions or concerns about how the City is continuing to supply essential City services during this time.

We recognize that this situation may be causing financial hardships, and we shared an update yesterday about a few changes we’re making to add greater leniency for our residents. Most notably: we are suspending utility shutoff for water service for non-pay – and we are waiving all late fees – until further notice. We are also suspending parking enforcement for at least the next two weeks. As we make further updates and changes to City services, we will continue to notify our community.

As we’ve all said, this is an unprecedented, continually evolving situation, and our safety precautions are being constantly re-evaluated and updated. Yesterday we asked our community to please avoid in-person business with the City as much as possible. Today, we are announcing that we are officially restricting all public access to City buildings, effective tomorrow (March 18). Our buildings will remain open to essential City employees only.  This decision followed the announcement from Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health of a presumptive positive case in Douglas County.

This will be a change in operations for many of us, but most interactions with the City can be accomplished by going online, emailing or calling us. Our website is a great resource and our teams are ready to assist those who call with questions. We recognize that this may be a new way of interacting, so we are here to help steer you in the right direction.

Our top priorities will be public safety and critical public services that must continue to function, such as clean water, wastewater treatment and solid waste.  We do this with the understanding that our team members who do this vital work are vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19 on themselves and their families. Our efforts to keep them healthy and available for critical service delivery are a top strategic priority, and we ask the public we serve to understand and support any changes you notice in service delivery for this reason.

The Lawrence Police Department and Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical are coordinating efforts with the City and County to develop best practices in how to handle a range of scenarios related to the pandemic while also continuing to provide their regular excellent services. During this time, we ask that you please reserve calls to 911 for emergencies only. You can call the non-emergency dispatch number should you need assistance from the fire-medical department, police or sheriff’s office. The number is (785) 832-7509.

Municipal Services and Operations is diligently reviewing operations and best practices to ensure that our water and wastewater systems are functioning properly and to continue providing Lawrence’s excellent drinking water.

We remain in close communication and coordination with our governmental, institutional and community partners on our response, support of community needs, and even how we will move into next steps in recovery in the coming weeks and months. It is clear that Lawrence and Douglas County share a great spirit of community and unity that give us pronounced advantages as we face this challenge.

Take care of yourselves, each other and our community, and thank you for supporting our community efforts during this critical and unusual time.