In an effort to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, both Kenai and Soldotna announced on Tuesday that they would be closing all city buildings to public access until further notice.
This decision comes after the city announced on Saturday that it would be closing the Kenai Community Library and the Kenai Senior Center. The city will evaluate the need for continued closures over the coming weeks, according to a Tuesday press release.
“The decision to close public access to these facilities was difficult; we continue to follow similar actions by the State and neighboring cities and do our best to serve the public in the safest way possible,” Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander said in the release. “In most cases, city employees will continue to work diligently within our buildings, practicing social distancing and safe work practices, so that they may continue to provide important services to our citizens during this period of public access.”
Anyone looking to make payments using a personal check or money order for city utility services including water and sewer can use the drop box in front of City Hall. No envelopes are required for drop box payment, but the user’s water and sewer account number and/or service address should be listed on the check.
Customers who wish to pay with credit cards, debit cards, e-checks or bank account transfers can log in to xpressbillpay.com, use the Xpressbillpay app, or contact Xpressbillpay by phone at 1-800-720-6847.
Payments for citations can be made by contacting City Hall at 907-283-8200.
Critical services including the police, fire and utility departments will remain in full operation, however, the lobbies of these buildings will closed to the public.
Kenai Fire Chief Jeff Tucker said on Tuesday that they have canceled all station tours until further notice and have implemented extra sanitizing measures in the building to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
“We still have to interact with the public, so the key to us is prevention,” Tucker said. “Like everybody else, we’re learning more about this all the time.”
Tucker said that although the virus itself is new, EMS professionals have experience protecting themselves from people who could be contagious and have a supply of N95 respirators for first responders as well as surgical masks for patients.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Office of Emergency Management is reaching out to all emergency services in the borough to assess how many more respirators will be needed. Tucker acknowledged that acquiring more respirators has been a problem nationwide.
The Kenai City Council will meet on Wednesday, March 18, and any member of the public who wishes to participate in the meeting can do so virtually or telephonically.
Updates on city operations will be available on the city’s website and Facebook page.
For more information on the city’s response to the new coronavirus, visit the city’s website at www.kenai.city.
Beginning Wednesday, all city facilities in Soldotna will also be closed to the public, until further notice. City staff will be available during regular business hours by phone.
City hall will only be open for city council meetings, however, the city is encouraging residents to take part in social distancing by sending in comments on city council business by email in advance of the meeting, a Tuesday press release from the city of Soldotna said. Residents can call the city clerk for instructions on how to comment telephonically, 907-262-9107. To reach Soldotna City Hall, call 907-262-9107. The public library number is 907-262-4227. Soldotna Parks and Recreation can be reached at 907-262-3151. Streets and maintenance can reached at 907-262-4672 and water and wastewater utility can be reached at 907-262-4205.
The city is not able to take cash at this time. Residents can make payments for city services online at the city’s website, www.soldotna.org, or over the phone with credit or debit card by calling 907-262-9107. Payments can be dropped off at city hall in the drop box or by mail, sending checks to 177 N. Birch St. Soldotna, AK 99669.
Street maintenance, public safety, water/sewer utilities, and the critical administrative and legislative functions of the city will carry on, the release said.
On Tuesday afternoon, the city of Seward declared a public health emergency, notifying the borough. As a result, all nonessential city staff were sent home until April 24, or until further notice, an announcement from the Kenai Peninsula Borough posted on their Office of Emergency Management site. All city employees will continue to be paid their regular wages. Essential personnel will contimue to work inside city facilities and can be reached by phone or email.
All Seward city buildings, offices and facilities are closed to the public for the same duration, with the exception of the police department window at city hall, the announcement said.
All work sessions and meetings of the planning and zonign commission, port and commerce advisory board and historic preservation commission have been cancelled through April 24. Seward City Council will meet at its regular meeting on March 23 to ratify the declaration and conduct time-sensitive business related to COVID-19, the announcement said.
A public information line has been set up for the public to ask questions or provide information at 907-224-4015.
COVID-19 is the disease caused by the new coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, China in late 2019. Symptoms for the disease include fever, runny nose, cough and breathing trouble. The elderly and those with weakened immuned systems are particularly vulnerable to the disease.
As of Tuesday, March 17, there are 4,226 known cases of the virus in the United States and 75 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.