Ponca City Commissioners met Monday night and discussed what actions, if any, should be taken to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Ponca City.
Craig Stephenson, city manager, said the city has closed the Marland Mansion, Marland’s Grand Home, Ponca City Library, Ponca City RecPlex and the city utility billing offices until March 31. “We will make another decision on whether to extend that after that time,” he said.
The city billing office is still taking payments and City Hall is still open. “We are still conducting business and we don’t have a lot of foot traffic.”
Utility customers can slide cash payments underneath and get a receipt or they can drop a check or money order in the drop box, call us or even make a payment online.
“We are trying to be flexible with payment arrangements,” he said. “Bills are still due. They don’t go away as services have already been rendered.”
The Recycling Center is closed effective Tuesday and the contracted recycling pickup through Supported Community Lifestyles will be closed after Wednesday.
Stephenson said the Ponca City RecPlex will be draining the pool and doing some painting and cleaning while the facility is closed. The library is also moving things around.
“The RecPlex is offering virtual fitness and the library will have a virtual story hour and some adult book services.
“We want our staff employed as long as possible. We are really pushing hand washing and using soap and water,” he added.
Stephenson said 90 percent of the city is essential services ranging from police and fire, water, waste water, solid waste, electric, streets and more. “Most of what we do is essential services. We’ve talked through these things and how to do it. We have a staff that if we need to move people, we can. Our staff is working diligently to do what they can.”
Mayor Homer Nicholson said the main thing the city is trying to do is stop the spread of COVID-19.
“We are asking people to keep their distance and watch what they do and tough. Everyone needs to do their part. President Trump’s doctor has said this will get worse before it gets better,” he said. “No one is immune to this. Everyone needs to take the assumption that they may be contaminated or could get contaminated. This is really the new normal we are living in.”
Nicholson said the City of Ponca City is getting a lost of criticism on Facebook. “People need to understand we are trying to solve this from the bottom up and not from the top down. We trust people are smart enough to know how to avoid exposure. If you don’t want to be exposed, stay home,” he said.
“This town is for everyone so they have to understand that if you don’t stay home or if you go out, you’re going to get exposed. I don’t understand the reason and logic of what the public sometimes expects and thinks. Everyone needs to evaluate themselves and think about the big picture situation.”
Commissioner Shasta Scott said a lot of businesses have chosen to close or lock their front lobbies. “Most restaurants have gone to take-out services only so I think without us putting the hammer down people are doing the right thing and trying to be compliant,” she said.
“Thee’s a really fine line and we are trying to navigate through it and certainly don’t want to be a dictator. I hope our citizens stay home and protect who they need to protect. This is a tough situation we are in, along with the rest of the world and nation.”
Commissioner Paul Taylor said businesses have rights as does the public. “Perception is 100 percent of reality so while it’s tempting to read a lot of public not-fact-checking things on the Internet, I encourage our citizens to go to the CDC website and look at what they recommend,” he said.
“It’s pretty darn simple an our Mayor has outlined those things. It’s the simple things like washing your hands. I think things are going well as far as services that the City performs. I just think we need to practice a little bit of restraint on how we treat each other. Everyone just needs to be kind. This will follow its course and may get worse before it gets better. We need to have a good attitude and everyone just needs to be nice to each other.”
Nicholson said the staff is up at night dealing with this issue. “It’s a world problem, a state problem and a local problem. We are asking everyone to please be calm and deal with it until it’s over with.”
“We have access to a lot of information that helps us make our decisions. Our decisions are a consolidation to what is being told to us. We want to try and keep everyone employed and safe and keep everyone calm and happy. It’s an impossible goal but we are working hard to try to do that.”
“Anxiety levels are high,” added Scott. “I’ve had people ask if we would mandate that all restaurants go to take-out only. I know there’s a couple of gyms that are still open in town. Our job is not to one person but it’s to all.”
Taylor said he has been reflecting on how resilient the citizens of Ponca City are and referred to the ice storm several years ago where citizens came together to help each other out. “We’ll get through this just like we did the ice storm. The citizens of Ponca City are very resilient.”