LAKE JACKSON — In the wake of Lake Jackson’s first confirmed COVID-19 case, the city is cutting operations, in-person staff and giving residents and businesses breaks on utility bills.
“We’re trying to do everything we can,” Mayor Bob Sipple said.
The city is providing a one-time credit on each utility customer’s bill to ease the “severe financial strain” the pandemic is causing residents and businesses, especially small businesses, a news release from City Manager Bill Yenne states. This will apply to base utility bills. Residents and businesses will still pay for what they use beyond the base limit.
What will cost the city about $575,000 will save residential customers $50.25 and small businesses $133, the release states. The city is also suspending penalties and fees for late utility payments, the release states.
“It’s not a lot, but it’s something,” Sipple said. “Fifty dollars could buy a bag of groceries.”
The city has reserve funds for events like hurricanes, he said.
“We just decided that we’re going to tap into these funds and show these people that we’re doing everything we can with the limitations that we have to help,” Sipple said.
City Council approved the waiver, but Yenne is the one who is doing everything he possibly can to help residents and city employees, Sipple said.
“He really reached out and tried hard to show good will for the people,” he said.
The confirmation of a woman in her 50s having COVID-19 will change some city operations, including implementing a weekly split-shift operation for essential personnel, Yenne said. This ensures if one group is exposed or becomes infected, the other group can continue working, he said.
City Hall is minimally staffed and utility payments should be made using the drive-thru, the release states.
“We’ve got a very limited staff up here,” Yenne said.
The recreation center, civic center and Jasmine Hall remain closed, he said.
Residential garbage pickup will continue, but the city is suspending heavy trash and recycling pickup, the release states. There will be roll-off containers at the mulch site on Canna Lane for residents to drop off recyclables and heavy trash, Yenne said.
Water and wastewater services are fully operational, but response to minor water leaks might be substantially delayed, he said.
“The city strongly encourages citizens to stay at home if possible; to practice good hygiene and to practice social distancing when you must leave your home,” the release states.
The mayor is praying for every resident of Lake Jackson and Brazoria County, Sipple said.