Parsons city commissioners approved a resolution on Monday that specifies what city departments are considered essential.

Employees in the list of departments, along with City Manager Debbie Lamb, are considered essential city workers. They were defined as such also by Gov. Laura Kelly in her stay-home orders in April. Lamb said during a Thursday work session that the resolution would allow certain workers to go through a modified quarantine after coming into contact with someone who has contracted the coronavirus. That would allow them to go to and from work instead of just staying home.

Those declared essential in the resolution consist of Lamb and employees in the police, fire, wastewater, water, public works and sanitation departments. During a time of crisis or emergency, the city manager would have authority to determine other workers are essential on an as-needed basis. The city manager also could determine that the employees listed as essential in the resolution may not be essential based on the circumstances of each emergency.

Mayor Tom Shaw questioned if the commissioners also should be considered essential because of their need to pay bills on time for the city. City Attorney Ross Albertini said the resolution could be amended to include them, but it takes only three commissioners to approve payments.

“I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer to that, mayor,” Albertini said.

The commission also likely could meet by phone or Zoom if needed, although Albertini wasn’t sure if that would be legal. He would have to check with the League of Kansas Municipalities to determine if it is allowed but he thinks as long as the public can access the meetings to see what the commission is doing it would be OK.

The resolution’s focus was on water and wastewater plant workers, Albertini said, because the plants need to be operated by someone as the city needs clean water.

The commission approved the resolution without amending it.

Commissioner Jeff Perez said the city should check into the possibility of an online meeting. He has been concerned about the potential of not all of the commissioners being able to meet in person to make a decision under a specific deadline on a project. 

Lamb said some cities are meeting online and livestreaming it for the public during the pandemic.

“I know that it’s possible because a lot of cities are doing it,” Lamb said.

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