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Mission is gearing up to lift restrictions and begin opening up the city starting on May 18 – next Monday.
This week, the city council, staff, city manager and mayor met over Zoom for a workshop and a regular called meeting. In the last month, Mission has conducted official meetings strictly over Zoom in order to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus after Hidalgo County began limiting public gatherings.
City Manager Randy Perez presented the city’s plan to open facilities during the regular called meeting. Perez said that while Governor Greg Abbott lifted restrictions on certain businesses, Mission would remain “conservative and vigilant” toward the protection of citizens and employees.
“We are requesting that city employees and citizens entering are required to wear face coverings in all city facilities,” Perez said, noting that people should still practice social distancing in all interactions. “We’re looking at an anticipated date of reopening our facilities on May 18, 2020.”
Perez said they are encouraging the conducting of businesses online and over the phone. Most services have recently been conducted remotely, so city staff are looking at each department individually to determine when changes back to in-person can occur.
“Each of them have a different type of approach,” Perez said. “For example, if we take city hall we have several departments – that will require employees at the entrance screening any and all citizens that come in through the door or main entrance.”
The city secretary’s office, which is in the main lobby area of the Mission City Hall, will be minimizing their capacity to be able to limit the people in the lobby.
“We are going to place social distancing markers, and we will try to limit the family members that do come in for a birth certificate or death certificate,” Perez said, noting that they have already been working with Mission residents to give certificates through the drive-thru. “Our planning department has been issuing permits by appointment as well – that will continue.”
Glass shields are already installed in the city secretary’s and planning department’s offices, and Perez said they will continue to sanitize surfaces after each visit to keep the environment safe.
“We are looking at other departments,” Perez said. “Our utility department, we are asking that the lobby still remain closed for the next couple of weeks, we’re looking at possibly through the end of the month.”
Perez said the plan is dependent on how things change, and that it can be adjusted if need be. He added that the city averages 100 to 150 citizens in the lobby in the utility department, so they wanted to continue conducting through the drive-thru for now.
Departments in facilities outside of city hall have also been practicing social distancing and flexible scheduling.
“Our police department currently has safety measures in place,” Perez said. “Our parks department will continue operating by appointment as well – we are currently not anticipating opening parks facilities such as the playground equipment, and we are looking at several restroom facilities to be opened in the next week as well considering the use of the parks for exercise duties.”
All restrooms will be periodically sanitized for safety. Perez said the Boys and Girls Club Department had to cancel this year’s baseball program because they are at a 25 percent capacity, and are limited to four people per event.
“We’re looking at the safety of our children and our citizens,” Perez said. “At the same time, we’re looking at the restrictions that are currently in place that would make the program not be able to function.”
The viability of the Boys and Girls Club summer program will be determined at the end of the month. Perez said the city has received concerns from parents about opening up for the summer months.
“If we do have a summer program, we are looking at later on in the summer, not necessarily June 1 the way we normally do,” Perez said. “We are looking at the daily rate that we are getting positive cases, and therefore we do want to take a very conservative approach on those facilities.”
The Speer Memorial Library and Mission Historical Museum has been offering curbside services, and Perez said the library has offered Wi-Fi 24/7 anywhere in the parking lot.
“We want to limit access once we open the library,” Perez said. “Currently [before the pandemic] we were at about 50 individuals at one time, so we want to limit the exposure.”
The public works and streets department have operated in flexible scheduling since closure, operating with two employees per vehicle to minimize exposure.
The council commended Perez on the detail of the plan to open city facilities, and asked no questions before approving the plan. Mayor Armando O’caña said they would be keeping watch on the statistics in Mission specifically as they move forward.