By Stevie Stephens Burden, Mayor of Wheeler
Dear Friends and Neighbors
As many of you know on this page I try hard to keep my FaceBook page for personal use. I like to post pictures of my dogs, food, our beautiful view, and of course our sunsets here in Wheeler. But these are such extraordinary times that I decided to change the rule – because that is what’s happening now – the rules are changing so I wanted to take a moment to bring you all up to date on what is happening in our city during this difficult time. I apologize that this post is so long but there is a lot going on and I thank you in advance for your patience and tolerance. If you live in Wheeler or are a merchant here, please feel free to share this – I would rather have too much information out there than not enough.
First I want to apologize if it seems like we, as a City, have been slow to respond but two out of three of our city employees have been sick and were just cleared to return to city hall. They have been doing as much as they could remotely but were not able to take work home with them when this all started. We are so relieved and grateful that they are better and were not stricken with this terrible virus. So we ask that you bear with us as they try to get caught up. Especially now that we have had our first confirmed cases in Tillamook County. We will see more and there is no way around that but if we practice social distancing and staying home we will lessen those numbers. We must remain vigilant in our efforts at maintaining social distances of at least six feet. Every expert agrees that it is social distancing that will reduce the spread of the virus.
The Wheeler City Council met in a special meeting to declare a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus outbreak in our country. We will continue to govern, as we always have, by the rule of law but some things may look different in the coming months. We have a law that says that the Council must meet every month on the third Tuesday. From what we have learned so far is that the meeting is mandatory but we do have discretion as to how we fulfill that mandate. We are obviously concerned about how to follow the law in a way that minimizes public risk and risk to our staff and Council. We will follow the advice of the experts and continue to meet our legal obligations. As always, we will post all information regarding our meetings in a timely fashion but please review the announcements closely as there will, most likely, be changes. Our overarching goal is that you can continue to participate and we can continue to meet our requirements as a City. We will try to give you as many options as possible to participate in our upcoming City Council meetings if we are still under a state of emergency and not able to return to business as usual. Look for information from City Hall in the coming weeks as to how we will handle the new environment and changes. The Planning Commission meeting for April has been cancelled.
The first thing all of these changes mean for all of you is that we will not being doing any shut offs for basic services, like water, until this emergency is over. We will offer payment relief, no reporting of late payments to credit reporting agencies, and no late charges, for as long as we are in this state of emergency. We know how hard it will be to keep up with financial responsibilities and we will try our best not to increase the stress of worrying about losing something so important as your water.
The North County Food Bank here in Wheeler will be distributing food on Tuesday as usual but pick up and distribution may look different – Thank you to the Tillamook Food Bank for sending up ready filled boxes to help out. They are in serious need of volunteers under the age of 60 – our average volunteer age is over 70 I believe, so if you can help please contact the food bank directly.
There is also outreach being done with our local pharmacy to develop ways to insure that essential prescriptions get to those who need them. Please call ahead before you go in to pick up your medicines.
I have been participating in all of the conference calls with the Governor and the Mayors from around the state. I have also been part of the daily leadership meetings with the Tillamook Board of Commissioners. We are very fortunate for the leadership we have in Tillamook County and our state.
As a result, the City will be following the lead of the state and county and have closed our city parks, docks, bathrooms, and boat launch. The Governor has declared that it is now a criminal offense, punishable by a fine and up to 30 days in jail to violate the orders. I know it is something we hate to see happen in our beloved town but it will help to maintain a safer environment for all of us.
We have had some trouble with our official city website and are unable to post to it right now so we have set up a new one temporarily to allow us to give all of you the latest information. This is our temporary website address: Citymgrwheeler.wixsite.com/mysite/ Please look at our new website and FaceBook page for information and we will try to post as soon as we receive anything new. Please let your neighbors know that if they do not have technology available to them we will post important updates in writing in multiple places around the city. You can look for them at the Post Office, Kiosk, and City Hall doors to start with. The city and the emergency preparedness committee have installed a hand-washing station at the city Post Office.
This emergency is going to require that all of us make sacrifices and have patience. We are working diligently on your behalf to keep Wheeler safe and Coronavirus free. We would ask that you do your part and respect the guidelines and orders that have been issued. We will do our best to keep you updated in this fast moving and ever changing new reality and will inform you of any changes to our closures or if we receive new information from the Governor or the County.
Now is a great time to reach out to your neighbors, especially if they are elderly, by phone or across your porches and streets. Check in, say hello, make sure they have everything they need.
As always, we will get through this if we work together and support each other. Thank you to all of you, especially the volunteers who have stepped up to lend a hand in our hour of need.
Be safe. Stay well. Stay home. Save Lives.
Stay tuned. Stevie