Taylor remains in a state of disaster through June.
On May 20, the Taylor city council approved a resolution extending its current declaration disaster through June 30. The declaration was first issued March 16 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and allows the city to allocate resources, apply for funding, utilize personnel and enact procedures to prevent the spread of the virus.
Assistant City Manager Jeffrey Jenkins said staff has discussed extending disaster declarations with other Williamson County cities.
“It’s been a little bit of a mixture I would say in the area,” said Jenkins. “Some of the cities in the Travis County area, they are extending theirs to about mid-June just because of what Travis County has going on.”
In talking with Fire Chief Daniel Baum and city staff, there seemed to be no significant benefit to either extending the declaration or letting it expire.
“The advice from TML (Texas Municipal League) on this is, ‘What do you feel comfortable with doing?’” said Jenkins.
“I don’t see a lot of negatives to extending it. Then again, there’s not a huge upside either because we can address matters either way,” said Mayor Brandt Rydell. “I guess I’m more inclined to go ahead and extend at this time as well.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Dwayne Ariola suggested waiting until the council’s May 28meeting to make a decision. The next meeting will happen a few days before the disaster declaration would have expired.
“Every day, something’s changing,” said Ariola, “so it doesn’t expire until the end of the month, … and then if we want to extend it on the 28th, we can extend it on the 28th.”
Gov. Greg Abbott is allowing more businesses to reopen this weekend. Councilmember Mitch Drummond noted that any cases that spike because of that allowance might not be publicly known until after the next council meeting.
“It takes two weeks to show symptoms,” said Drummond. “We’re opening up now, so if someone was to catch at this point, or a group of folks would, we won’t know for two weeks.”
Citizens might also be congregating this weekend to remember recent tragedies, such as two Taylor ISD students who passed away after an accident May 16.
“With or without permission, people are going to be having large gatherings, groups of possibly a hundred, 200 people that’ll be getting together,” said Councilmember Gerald Anderson, “so we could see a spike just from the gatherings that will be this weekend to pay respect to celebrations of life to those young men who lost their lives.”
Councilmember Robert Garcia also thought it was best to extend the declaration.
“It’s a strange time right now. We’re reopening Texas as much as possible,” said Garcia. “I’d rather us go ahead and extend it for another 30 days. Just in case something happens, we’re already there in the event something rearises.”
The extension was passed unanimously.
County ends disaster declaration
Part of the mixture Jenkins mentioned was Williamson County itself.
On May 19, commissioners court terminated the county’s disaster declaration, which went into effect March 14.
“It is time for Williamson County to stand again and to grow in a way that leads our nation,” said County Judge Bill Gravell.
Commissioners court also approved the plan for ramping up in-person access to Williamson County offices.
“Over the last two months and in the midst of the pandemic, Williamson County continued to provide services to the citizens of our county. Many of those services became virtual, but I am pleased that we will be opening up to more in-person access again,” said Commissioner Cynthia Long, who worked on the plan.
The plan complies with COVID-19 orders issued by Gov. Greg Abbott, as well as social distancing and other preventative practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Plans are subject to change daily depending on changes to COVID-19 response.
County buildings will reopen by following procedures that aim to ensure the public’s and employees’ safety.
County buildings will have signage stating that face coverings are recommended, but not required, to be worn inside county buildings. However, cloth face coverings will be mandatory when entering a courtroom based upon directives from the Office of Court Administration.
Temperature checks may be required by elected officials for members of the public entering the Williamson County Justice Center, facilities where essential employees are working, and visiting the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter.