Board Takes Action to Maintain Continuity of Government During COVID-19 Pandemic

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Provided by Prince William County

The Prince William Board of County recently took several actions to maintain continuity of government while keeping itself and residents safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Board took these actions during its March 31, meeting while practicing social distancing and taking preventive measures to stop the spread of germs.

During their meeting last week, the Board confirmed and approved the Declaration of Local Emergency. The County Executive, Chris Martino, had declared it on March 16, 2020. As part of the declaration, the Board authorized the County Executive, as the county’s Director of Emergency Management, to oversee, allocate and regulate distribution of goods, enter into contracts necessary to combat the threat and disaster, and to take other actions authorized by law and the Board to protect the public. The Board also amended the declaration to include a finding that the effects of COVID-19 constitute a disaster for the entirety of Prince William County.

The Board also voted to amend its Rules of Procedure to allow members to participate in meetings from remote locations. Governor’s current Executive Orders do not apply to the operation of government. So County Attorney Michelle Robl recommended that the Board continue to have a physical quorum of five members in the chamber with other members attending remotely. Meetings should remain open to the public, at least for the tax-rate and budget public hearings and adoption, and time sensitive land use matters. The Board members and the public in the chamber for those meetings will follow social distancing guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Another Vote

The Board also adopted an emergency ordinance to provide for the continuity of government in the event of enemy attack or other disaster. It ensures the Board’s ability to conduct necessary public business in accordance with state and federal laws and health directives, while maintaining transparency and public participation. It also delegates responsibilities to the County Executive to take actions to address the disaster and maintain continuity of government. The Board adopted the ordinance with the provision that the County Executive would first notify the Board of any planned action when possible. The emergency ordinance is effective for 60 days unless readopted, amended or repealed by the Board sooner. Staff is working to bring the matter back to the Board for a public hearing and adoption of the amended county code at the April 28, 2020, Board meeting.

Due to the health and safety concerns of COVID-19, the Board also voted to temporarily remove in-person public comment time. The Board will consider at every other meeting whether to reinstate the in-person public comment time, once it is safe for the public to physically attend. This does not apply to commenting at public hearings.

Public Comment

Residents may continue to comment in-person on public hearing items, including the budget and tax rate public hearings scheduled for April 14 and April 16. Staff is also working to implement alternate technology avenues for the public to comment remotely during meetings. However, residents are encouraged to send emails or call their Board member, or comment on SpeakUp. Government operations, such as Board meetings, are exempt from the Governor’s Executive Orders. However, the Board and county staff will continue to implement health and safety measures during meetings, including social distancing and cleaning equipment between uses.

Finally, the Board voted to cancel the April 7 meeting and reschedule the School Board’s Fiscal 2021 budget presentation to April 14 at 7:30 p.m.

For more information on the Board of County Supervisors, visit pwcgov.org/bocs.

More information about the county’s response to COVID-19 is located at pwcgov.org/COVID19.

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