Tehachapi City Council Update
March 28, 2020
City approves utility deferments, waivers during COVID-19 crisis
In an effort to address the continuing COVID-19 crisis and support small businesses and city residents, the Tehachapi City Council met in a Special Meeting on March 18 in front of City Hall to vote on a temporary policy to defer water, sewer and trash payments for small businesses and to waive late fees for residential customers for two months. With Councilman Phil Smith on the phone, the council unanimously approved the plan.
The program includes an opt-in for businesses to defer utility payments (water, sewer, trash) for usage in the months of March and April.. The amount due for these months can then be spread over payments for the next six months (May-October). If not paid by the end of the year, they will remain a receivable with payment expected. The program will be available to small businesses consistent with the definition of
United States Small Business Administration standards.
For residents, the City will waive late payment charges for the months of March and April, and will be suspending water shut-offs until May. This is essentially the same arrangement offered to businesses.
According to Assistant to the City Manager Corey Costelloe, the City is the provider of these services and maintains a healthy Utility Fund with enough reserves to allow for payment deferrals. The City has a contract with Waste Management for trash pick up and they will use the City General Fund to make sure Waste Management is paid in full every month. Deferred payments from the opt-in program will be used to repay the General Fund. The City is also willing to work with residents to create a payment plan.
They reminded everyone that water, sewer and trash are the only services over which they have control and only within the city limits. They have no control over gas and electric service supplied by gas companies or Southern California Edison.
Council meets by telephone
At 8 a.m on Monday morning March 23, the Tehachapi City Council held an emergency meeting by conference call. The meeting was available to the public on YouTube and can still be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCh0HOSFazMT27ynDXhkUQ0A.
As a result of proclamations made in March by the World Health Organization, the President of the United States and Governor of California Gavin Newsom, on March 20 the City's Director of Emergency Services proclaimed the existence of a local emergency within the City of Tehachapi.
Mayor Susan Wiggins signed Resolution No. 11-20 on Friday, March 20. As an emergency declaration is only valid for seven days, it must then go to the City Council for ratification. In addition to ratification, the Council authorized Emergency Services to continue to take appropriate measures to protect public health, safety and welfare, and to obtain emergency aid from other agencies.
The Council also approved a telecommuting policy for some City employees, allowing them to work from home. These employees are expected to work the same hours as they would on-site. The employees who wish to work from home are required to complete an agreement and submit it for approval by their department head. It can be cancelled at any time or when it is no longer necessary. City Manager Greg Garrett emphasized that all essential City employees are still at work at the City from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Only a handful of employees should be affected by this policy.
The City of Tehachapi urges compliance with the Governor's stay-at-home order.
It is important to note that this declaration will not impact essential services such as Tehachapi Police, Kern County Fire (contracted), as well as water, sewer and trash services.
The City of Tehachapi continues working closely with the Kern County Department of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control, the County of Kern and the Office of Governor Gavin Newsom, receiving regular updates as we work together to flatten the curve of COVID-19.