PEORIA, SPRING BAY, Ill. (WMBD) — This week, mayors around central Illinois region issued disaster declarations.
These declarations are supposed to help towns get reimbursed during mitigation against COVID-19.
Our local economies are getting hit hard from the COVID-19 epidemic.
Jobs are being lost, businesses are being temporarily closed down.
WMBD spoke with Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis and Spring Bay Mayor Dave Tilley about how they are responding for their communities.
“Emergency powers are going to give latitude in situations like this to make calls within the city. Most of them are to protect the community, public safety aspects, things you might have to do in your community,” Mayor Ardis said.
“We’re just trying to be prepared for anything that comes along. Our first initiative is to try and reach out and identify those in our community who are at risk, and make sure there are volunteers who are in place to assist them. We want to have the ability for those in the community who are at high-risk to reach out and if they need groceries, someone to go to the pharmacy, or assistance that we can help our neighbors out,” Mayor Tilley said.
Area mayors are now being given emergency powers to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.
This allows leaders to make decisions without city council approval.
Emergency powers sound intimidating, but Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis says there’s no reason to have fear.
“I don’t think there’s anything in these situations that should give rise to people being afraid that some sort of Martial Law type thing in Peoria is going to happen. That’s not going to happen,” Mayor Ardis said.
When given these powers, a mayor is able to enact a curfew, close liquor stores, discontinue the selling of firearms, and limit access to public buildings among other things. Mayor Tilley says no businesses in Spring Bay does sell alcohol or guns.
Council documents show there is an existing ordinance pertaining to emergency power and the code gives the mayor the authority to “institute a curfew to certain areas or the entirety of the City, approve previously budgeted expenditures, approve new spending if the emergency extends beyond the fiscal year, close all retail liquor stores, including taverns, discontinue the selling of gas or firearms and ammunition. Under a state of emergency, the executive officer has broad authority to take all reasonable actions to respond to the emergency, including limiting access to public buildings, canceling meetings, implementing staffing adjustments, work schedules, and alternate working arrangements and entering into contracts for the emergency response protocols.”
The council meeting will also be set up differently; Mayor Ardis and five council members will be allowed to attend in Council Chambers, the rest of the council will call in via phone conference. Media will also be put in another room within City Hall where reporters will watch a live stream.
Mayor Ardis says a city lockdown is not out of the question.
“I’m not saying that I wouldn’t lock the city down. If the information presented itself that we needed to do that as a community, there’s a variety of things that could cause that to be real,” Ardis said.
Spring Bay Mayor Dave Tilley tells WMBD emergency powers are given to leaders in order to make decisions quickly in the event where councils are not able to meet.
“We want to be able to act and react appropriately. If I can involve board trustees in decisions that need to be made, if we have the luxury of time, that’s great. But what emergency powers also allow me to do is act pretty quickly if we need to,” Tilley said.
Tilley is also a nurse at OSF St. Francis and a combat medic in the Army National Guard. He says small towns like Spring Bay might have to find a way to get through this on their own during this Pandemic.
“In these times, our national and even state resources will be stretched very thin. If you look through the CDC’s guidelines in Pandemics preparedness, it tells small towns to prepare to be self-reliant. We might get no supplies, we might get no backing,” Tilley said.
The Spring Bay Village Board voted on an ordinance to give Tilley emergency powers on Wednesday of this week.
Peoria City Council will vote whether to give Mayor Ardis his powers next Tuesday.
Both Ardis and Tilley say in case of a lockdown, there is no need to panic.
Different cities have different ordinances. Mayor Ardis says if he gets emergency powers, they will be effective up to 30 days unless sooner terminated by the mayor.
Tilley says his emergency powers last until an all-clear order is given by the governor or health department, at that point, the Village Board will meet again.
Other area mayors who have been given emergency powers are Pekin Mayor Mark Luft and Peoria Heights Mayor Mike Phelan.
Peoria City Council has made changes to how city councils will run due to trying to limit the spread of COVID-19. You can find those changes here.