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Dillingham City Council votes to grant city manager emergency powers

Brian Venua/KDLG

The public and City Council engaged in vigorous discussion at Thursday's meeting. Emergency Order One is now in effect as well. It contains the same protective measures that were already in place, with a few modifications.

Dillingham City Council voted last night to pass an ordinance 2020-22(S) that officially grants city manager Tod Larson emergency powers.

Larson will now be able to enact legislation with emergency orders. This will bypass the need to extend COVID-19 ordinances traditionally by the council.

But there’s a catch.

The council can step in and change, or reject any actions that are drafted by the city manager. Larson will be required to work closely with the city’s attorney and regional medical professionals when drafting new orders. He will also have to report orders or changes to the council at regular meetings or special sessions.

Emergency Order One is now in effect as well. It contains the same protective measures that were already in place, but with a few modifications.

A mandatory 14-day quarantine is still in effect for those who travel into Dillingham. The council removed the option to complete quarantine within 72 hours with two negative COVID-19 tests.

People in quarantine can now leave their designated location to go outside for fresh air, taking walks or exercising. People can also go on drives and operate other vehicles, like a snowmachine, under the condition that they directly return to their quarantine location. People can also leave to take part in subsistence activities.

Those options can only be completed alone or with household members. Essential workers as defined by the state of Alaska are still allowed to leave quarantine for work-related services. But they must avoid other members of the public.

Cloth masks are still required in indoor public spaces or outside where physical distancing is not possible. The new order specifies that it must cover a person’s nose or mouth.

The meeting was met with vigorous discussion between members of the public and city council members. Some people called in to express their support for enacting emergency powers. Others expressed concerns that the language of the ordinance was unclear and that it would give too much power to the city manager.

The city says it will work on community outreach about the new declaration. It will also provide educational materials on what has changed.

People who have questions about Emergency Order One can contact Larson or reach out to emergency operations manager Richard Thompson. The official order can also be found on the city’s website.

Contact the author at tyler@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200