AUGUSTA — City councilors — who dialed into Augusta City Center by phone to conduct city business without risking exposing each other to the coronavirus — voted to ratify Mayor David Rollins’s Monday declaration of a state of disaster.

Councilors voted unanimously and without debate Thursday night to affirm Rollins’s declaration, which allowed city officials to enact emergency management measures, including opening an emergency operations center at Hartford Fire Station.

Councilors dialed into the meeting, under new public meeting protocols Rollins said are allowed under changes authorized by Gov. Janet Mills in response to the coronavirus spread. Rollins, Police Chief Jared Mills, City Manager William Bridgeo, Assistant City Manager and Human Resources Director Susan Robertson and Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director Roger Audette gathered at Augusta City Center, each several feet apart from each other, at tables in council chambers.

Councilors suggested council business be restricted, during the pandemic, to emergency measures and delaying council items on other business, as they also sought to reassure residents the city will get through the crisis.

“This seems like a moment in time nobody can even relate to,” said at-large Councilor Darek Grant. “I heard from people, while walking up and down my neighborhood street, keeping my 6-foot distance from everyone, that people are nervous and this is frightening for everyone.

“I think overall we have the best team out there to address this and anything that comes our way,” he added. “I’m trying to remain hopeful and look forward to better days ahead. Hopefully in the end we’ll see our hometown, that we love, come out of this better than ever.”

Rollins and Bridgeo said residents have responded well to guidelines urging people to maintain distance from each other and restrictions put in place due to the virus spread, including a ban, enacted just before St. Patrick’s Day, on bars and restaurants being open to dining and being limited to takeout only.

“It’s amazing how the citizens are cooperating,” Rollins said.

At-large Councilor Marci Alexander urged residents  to educate themselves about COVID-19, so they know what to do if they, or someone in their family, gets the virus.

“It’s important we all know as much information as we can because things are going to arise very quickly,” she said, urging residents to seek information at the Centers for Disease Control website on coronavirus.

Alexander said educating oneself will help medical workers and others “on the battle lines of this” cope.

“Just like we did with the Ice Storm,” she said, “we’re Mainers, and we can get through this.”

Augusta has established sources for residents seeking information about coronavirus and the city response to it, reachable by phone at 620-8001 or by email at [email protected]

Additionally, city officials called the area’s elderly housing complexes this week to confirm contact information to make sure officials and residents of the facilities knew how to seek help in case of emergency.

Police Chief Jared Mills is overseeing a task force looking at what the city would do if there is a need to partner with other organizations to provide food to people, including potentially using the currently closed Augusta Civic Center’s kitchen facilities to do so, if needed.

Audette, whose leadership so far during the pandemic was praised by multiple councilors Thursday, said the coronavirus is unlike other public safety challenges of the past.

“I was standing at Hartford Station the other day, thinking about a fire station that is 100 years old, and how many times firefighters went out the door to fight structure fires or on medical calls, and now we’re facing something none of us has ever been up against,” he said. “It’s certainly very different.”

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