Carla Nielsen

MIAMI – A revised emergency ordinance was approved by the Miami city council in a special meeting Friday to tighten up some of the original mandates after changes were made to the coronavirus shutdown and quarantine guidelines set forth by the state, and those adopted by larger cities.

Discussion was held regarding potential revisions to the emergency ordinance declared previously because of COVID-19’s impending threat to the people of Miami. After a lengthy discussion, the revisions were approved.

Mayor Rudy Schultz said the revisions to the original ordinance (that has been extended to April 30 and could be extended further) include:

All persons living in or visiting Miami are ordered to shelter in place. They may leave their residences only for essential errands or to work at an essential business, etc.

Outdoor activity (walking, biking, hiking, fishing, etc.) is allowed if people maintain a safe distance of six feet. No facilities will be open at the area parks.

All businesses (except for those deemed essential) are required to cease all activity. As long as the business isn’t open to the public, maintenance and renovation activities can continue.

All public or private events outside a resident are prohibited, but the city is not mandating what occurs inside a resident. This does not apply to any public meeting as defined by the Open Meetings act, any funerals at G.A.R Cemetery, any precinct or polling site during an election, blood drives and any spiritual or religious gatherings at a religious entity holding a valid exemption from taxation.

“This is certainly tightening things down further than they were, after taking insight from what Oklahoma City is doing and beyond what the state has currently done,” Schultz said.

“We are not going to violate peoples’ first amendment rights when it comes to churches, etc., and I’ve seen most places of worship as of Sunday were conducting their services via some type of streaming online. But they should practice physical distancing and take action in the best interest of their congregation. I strongly encourage church leaders to use the streaming services that are available.”

Anyone violating the ordinance will be guilty of an offense and punished with a fine that won’t exceed $500 plus appropriate court costs.

Law enforcement officers that investigate violations have the option to educate the parties involved, issue a citation, and even arrest the individual.

“We are asking for voluntary compliance, but there is a legal enforcement mechanism backing up the ordinance,” Schultz said.

Loring added that anybody with household members that have contracted the virus and those traveling here from the New York city area and the states of Washington, California, and Louisiana, are required to self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival, with some specific exceptions (like healthcare workers).

“We are asking people to make a good faith effort. No ordinance can possibly cover every potential scenario, but these are the basic ones,” Schultz said.

Loring added that on May 1 the city utilities usually change from winter rates to summer rates, but that is being delayed until at least June 3, and the city has temporarily done away with shutoffs.

In other matters, Mayor Schultz and councilmembers David Davis, Doug Weston, Ryan Orcutt, and Vicki Lewis (some participating from a remote location) approved a bid of $2,593,000 from Branco Enterprises, Inc. for the City of Miami’s Main Street enhancement project.

City Manager Dean Kruithof said, “We were waiting on approval from ODOT and they have given us that and we are ready to get the project underway.”

The council also approved a resolution authorizing the city to enter into a project agreement with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) for construction improvements along US 69A (including but not limited to widening and resurfacing).

Kruithof said, “We are working with the economic development administration of the federal government on a $2 to $3 million grant for extending the improvements of 69A north of the B&SF railroad tracks to accommodate the new developments taking place at J-M Farms and the Quapaw Nation. ODOT needs to know who would be responsible for various parts of this project. And we are piggybacking what ODOT is going to be putting in south of the railroad track - a Super 2 highway – two lanes of traffic with a turn lane in the middle.”

“We do have the responsibility for moving utilities, which we are already doing, and also for right-of-way,” he said. “There is also some mitigation language because we will have to some environmental checks, especially in some of the drainage ways in the area. That would also be taken care of by the grant for this 2020-2021 project.”

City Attorney Ben Loring said, “The contract has been somewhat revised on some issues legal we were concerned about. If the remediation gets way out of hand and ends up being something we just can’t do we would be able to bail out of the contract.”

Council members also approved an amendment to the city health plan to cover all COVID-19 related expenses without cost sharing for all covered employees, retirees, and dependents.

“Our city employees are considered essential employees during the pandemic and everybody is at risk. A number of insurance companies are changing their plan agreements so that they would cover anybody that comes down with the virus. There would be no copayments or deductible and no co-pay for testing. This changes our plan to be able to cover treatment for COVID-19 100%,” Kruithof said.