By Bob Uphues
Brookfield's village board will vote on March 23 to declare a state of emergency on the heels of Gov. J.B. Pritzker's statewide stay-at-home order Friday to stem the spread of COVID-19.
No one in Brookfield has tested positive for the upper respiratory disease, but officials at the state and local level are attempting to "flatten the curve" of new cases, which had climbed to 585 statewide on March 20 from 46 a week earlier.
"People will notice nothing different with this, not with how the village is operating or what they see around them," said Village President Kit Ketchmark. "It's the next level of preparedness."
The village offices are closed, effective March 23, until further notice. Police officers, firefighter/paramedics and public works employees will continue to work and those departments will be "fully operational," according to a notice on the village's website.
The lobby of the police station will remain open during its normal hours, and village hall employees will continue to work, remotely if possible.
Elected officials will hold a brief meeting at 6:30 p.m. on March 23 at the village hall to pass two resolutions related to the emergency declaration. Included in the omnibus agenda are several zoning considerations, including approving Alphabet Learning Center's second location on Broadway Avenue and granting a variance to Beach Avenue BBQ for their rooftop pig sign.
That will be the last meeting of the village board until further notice. Ketchmark said that in the absence of board meetings, the emergency declaration will allow local government to keep functioning, allow bills to be paid and postpone ratification by village trustees and allow local government to respond quickly to what has been a rapidly evolving situation.
"It's a level of preparedness," Ketchmark said. "It keeps government running, which we think is very important, whether it's just paying bills or having our first responders ready. It allows us to act quicker, should the need be."
The village's ordinance governing the village president's powers during states of emergency is fairly sweeping, including the power to limit egress and ingress, imposing curfews and restricting movement of vehicles.
There is no plan to do any of that, Ketchmark said. The goal of the emergency declaration, he said, was for Brookfield to be prepared to respond quickly when the need arises.
"There is nothing pending in Brookfield," Ketchmark said. "We are not shutting down the town anything more than the governor has done with it. We're not limiting travel or anything like that whatsoever."
A second resolution being passed Monday seeks to exclude the village's first responders from provisions in President Trump's Families First Coronavirus Response Act of March 18, related to emergency leave and emergency paid sick leave.
According to a memo from the village manager's officer to trustees, the resolution is needed so Brookfield "can ensure it has adequate staffing of emergency responders in case they are needed."
Riverside holds off on declaration
Riverside Village President Ben Sells during a meeting of the village board on March 19, said, "At this point, I have no intention of declaring an emergency."
Trustees did vote unanimously, however, to pass an ordinance amending the village code to give the village president the authority to declare a state of emergency if the need arises.
The vote on the new authority did not itself declare a state of emergency.
"What it is doing is codifying the state law for the president in the appropriate circumstances to declare an emergency and the procedures by which that would happen," said Village Attorney Michael Marrs. "It's important to have this in your code. The current circumstances have kind of brought home how quickly things can change. And, in a true emergency where the board is not able to convene, the ability of the village president to declare an emergency and kind of assume the powers of the board on a temporary basis is an important one."
Sells illustrated the kind of benefit having the ability to declare an emergency would have in appropriate situations.
"What I'd like to emphasize to the residents is that the purpose of this is primarily administrative and goes in particular to finance issues," Sells said. "For example, if we needed to make an emergency purchase that was in excess of the purchasing authority that our village manager has, and for some reason the board was unable to meet, it would allow the village president to authorize that kind of expenditure."
One reason Sells has not opted to declare a state of emergency is that Riverside has set up a way for the village board to keep meeting via conference call.
The public is able to attend virtually through Riverside TV, which is broadcast live on Comcast Channel 16, AT&T UVerse Channel 99 and at riversidetv.us.
The March 19 village board meeting was the first held entirely via teleconference.