Steady as she goes.
Is Lake Geneva closing the city? The Lake Geneva Tuesday night city council meeting ended with the scheduling of a special council meeting regarding the crowds in Lake Geneva and the health and safety of everyone with the coronavirus still in play. Lana Lake, Geneva’s gem of a city clerk, read in all public comments which numbered about fifteen. The majority of the comments encouraged the council to make no rash decisions or restrictions and do more encouraging of the public to follow health and safety guidelines.
City attorney Dan Draper laid out the legalities with some input from Chief Peters, head of the Lake Geneva Fire Department. Chief Peters shared the fact that the Walworth County Public Health Department oversees the public health of the city and holds the authority to make decisions. Dan Draper and Chief Peters both agreed that, on the city level, not much could be enforced legally as far as restricting people from coming to Lake Geneva, the wearing of masks, or enforcement of social distancing. Draper sited state statutes and the power the state forces have. He also explained Walworth County’s Health Department’s broad powers regarding the city’s health issues.
At this time the state and county have no orders in place, making it difficult or impossible for the city to enforce much of anything related to the pandemic emergency. All that can currently and legally be done is recommending and encouraging everyone to go along, but actually making ordinances to enforce compliance in these areas is not likely either. The council members all had ideas on what should be done or not be done. The idea of enforcing the wearing of masks and social distancing was deemed unenforceable, closing sections of parking or sections of streets to create more space for pedestrians to spread out impossible to be done safely, blocking the border of the city to prevent too many cars coming in was deemed to be unlawful.
The conclusion of the meeting was to do nothing, or, as a naval captain might command: “steady as she goes.”
Zoom for all meetings?
Lake Geneva has ten standing committee meetings and approximately ten other committees that meet regularly. The city entity members who have not been able to meet are concerned there are agenda items that need to be discussed, such as the business improvement district (BID), park board, the avian affairs, the tourism business ongoing, and more. The city does not have a timeline as to when the meeting members will be able to meet in person again so all meetings can be conducted as before.
City Attorney Dan Draper added his legal opinion, that a public meeting is a public meeting no matter where or how the meeting is held, and the public has to be able to be a part of it. If all meetings are to be held, as the council and the standing committees are currently operating, that comes with additional costs. To conduct meetings virtually comes with a cost. The current virtual meetings run anywhere from $1,250.00 to $2,500.00 a month (depending on the length of meetings) and, if all meetings are to be added to the virtual list of meetings, that would add an additional $1,250.000 to $2,500.00 to the city’s cost. The council members are all concerned that the meetings cannot be held off too much longer. The emergency order that the city put out has kept the city from holding all meetings in person, and that edict will not expire until the end of June.
The council voted to hold off and wait, with fingers crossed, and hope that the in-person meetings will be able to be resumed soon.