The city of Washington is making tentative plans for the next steps toward returning to pre-coronavirus operations.
Since March the city has altered its day-to-day operations to do its part to slow the spread of the coronavirus. City hall has been closed, city crews have been split up and a number of other changes have been made with the intent of limiting contact for city staffers.
More than two weeks after the state of Missouri relaxed restrictions related to the coronavirus and allowed businesses and restaurants to reopen, the city is discussing what its next phase may look like.
When the state restrictions were loosened, the city didn’t fully resort to normal operations. City hall reopened for some staffers, but has been closed to the public.
The Washington Public Library was closed to the public until May 11. On that date, the city began allowing 10 people at a time to use the facility.
The city is looking at June 1 for the start of its next phase, but City Administrator Darren Lamb said what that looks like is still undecided.
The library, for example, could ramp up operations starting June 1. Lamb said the city could extend the hours beyond the current 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday schedule.
The extended hours would allow the city to bring back furloughed library staff who were let go when the library closed in March.
Lamb said the city is still deciding if the extended hours also would mean extending the occupancy above the current 10-patron maximum. He said after the first two days, the library reported it didn’t have to turn anyone away because of capacity concerns.
City hall could be reopened to the public on June 1 as well. Lamb said during its closure the city has done its best to help out residents. He said the city would still encourage people to pay utility bills online or use the drop box, but would consider reopening to allow in-person payments.
The city also might loosen up its workforce. Right now departments are being split into teams.
For example, the parks department has multiple teams reporting to different locations and the teams don’t interact. The public works department has melded crews from streets, water, and the wastewater departments to form new teams.
The public works teams are designed to have at least one person who can handle a water main break repair. The teams have been working three 12-hour days with some on-call duty to get their 40 hours.
Lamb said the city has found some success with the team approach, but might consider altering the schedule. Some teams could work a normal five-day-a-week shift, while others could still stick to the current setup. Those details are still being worked out.
One thing that is for sure changing come June 1 is recycling. The city suspended its curbside program in March.
Curbside collection will resume June 1 when Waste Connections, Bridgeton, takes over solid waste hauling for the city. This week every residential trash customer received a new 64-gallon cart to use for recycling.
Recycling will be picked up on customers’ first and third pickup days of the month. For the first time, customers can recycle cardboard curbside pickup.
Public Works Director John Nilges said cardboard recycling is a huge benefit for the city. Cardboard takes up a lot of space at the landfill, he said.
With fewer cardboard boxes being thrown away, the life span of the landfill can be extended, he said.