On a motion by council member John Howard, Forsyth city council has cancelled all meetings until at least April 20. The vote to do so was 5-0, with council member Chris Hewett absent from the March 16 meeting.
City attorney Bobby Melton cautioned that the city had advertised for five public hearings, three on planning and zoning issues and two on alcohol licenses, at the April 6 meeting and would incur the delay and expense of re-advertising the meetings if it did not hold them. There was also a question of adverse effects on the businesses involved if the hearings were delayed. City manager Janice Hall said she thinks only Johnny Brown’s detailing business will be particularly hurt by delaying the public hearings.
Mayor Eric Wilson said he has checked with other cities to see what they are doing about meetings and sought guidance from the Georgia Municipal Association over the weekend. He said Perry is live-streaming its meetings and has a call-in telephone number for the public to participate.
“One thing we can’t do is limit the public’s ability to participate in our meetings,” said Wilson.
Hall said the city’s plan to live-stream meetings hasn’t worked because of band-width issues in Alderman Hall where the meetings are held. She said she is now making audio recordings of the meetings with the intention of putting them on Facebook.
“We don’t know what will happen between now and the next meeting [on April 6],” said Howard. “The city of Atlanta may close down.”
Council had scheduled a work session for 5 p.m. on April 6, immediately before the council meeting. It was also cancelled.
Hall said she has cancelled all rentals of city facilities. She said city court has been cancelled for this week and the following two weeks. She sent out notices and put the cancellation on the website and city personnel will be at the court to inform anyone who comes.
Hall said she is looking at closing all city offices to the public. She read council the provision that gives her authority in emergency situations. She said the city won’t disconnect any services until further notice. She is encouraging customers to make payments by phone or online and said she is trying to work out some way to have a drive-through for city payments. Hall said she was having a meeting with her department heads to decide how to handle employees who are out because of their own illness or family illness.
On Tuesday, March 17 Wilson issued a statement that all city facilities and offices are closed to the public until further notice. He said employees will continue to work with varying hours. Any essential in-person contacts with the public will be at the police department/city hall and not in individual offices.
Payments are to be made at the drop box at 200 S. Kimball Street or by phone or Internet. Cash payments can be made at 200 S. Kimball Street from 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Disconnections for nonpayment are postponed for March 18 and April 4. City court is cancelled for March 19 and 26 and April 2. All rentals of city buildings are cancelled and fees returned, and all city board meetings for March and April are cancelled.
Wilson’s announcement said updates will be posted on the City of Forsyth Facebook page or call city hall at 478-994-5649 or the city manager and mayor at 478-994-7747.