In a nearly empty city hall, Smyrna Mayor Derek Norton issued a lengthy statement on the COVID-19 virus response Monday night, updating citizens on the city’s course of action and urging everyone to support each other.
“Smyrna is a strong community, and we will get through this together,” he said. “As we move forward in the upcoming weeks, please be vigilant and limit your interactions with others. Wash your hands often, and if you must go to public places like the grocery store please use gloves or disinfectants. Social distancing is of the utmost importance to stem the spread off the coronavirus.”
While almost the entire city council was present, with only Lewis Wheaton absent, just five people sat in the audience during the meeting. Much of the agenda had been canceled or tabled and the meeting ended after just 17 minutes.
All city buildings closed to the public on Friday, including city hall, the community center, the library, Brawner Hall and the Smyrna History Museum, and all programs and public meetings have been canceled at least through the end of the month. Police and firefighters are still working, as are curbside garbage and recycling services and the utility payment drive-through at city hall.
Some functions are continuing, albeit in a different manner. For example, open records requests pertaining to police activity will be handled exclusively via email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“In this new environment we live in with national and state declarations of health emergencies amidst the spread of the coronavirus, the city is working with federal and state officials and the CDC to enact changes to the way we operate in an effort to protect Smyrna citizens and the city staff serving them,” Norton said. “These changes seek to promote social distancing and limit gatherings or activities that may expose us all to infection.”
Future public meetings could potentially be handled via teleconference.
Noting how many people are feeling financial pressure due to all the business closings, Norton said the city will suspend water disconnections and not apply any late fees for unpaid balances for the next 60 days. Georgia Power, Cobb EMC and natural gas providers have suspended disconnections and collections for 30 days, according to the statement.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s office is working to help local businesses apply for emergency funding from the Small Business Administration, and Norton said he’s speaking with the Cobb Chamber of Commerce to get updates on emergency business funding.
“We will do everything we can as a city to help local businesses navigate the process to apply for this emergency funding,” he said.
Lastly, the city is looking for volunteers to help feed local children in need. MUST ministries is accepting food donations at Tillman House (940 Concord Rd SE). Norton said there is an “extreme need” for volunteers, with anyone interested encouraged to call (770) 435-0851 or email email@example.com.
“As always, our staff who serves you well stands ready to assist with questions or issues you may have,” the statement concluded. “God bless all of you and your families.”
Haisten Willis is a freelance writer who lives in Smyrna with his wife, daughter and dog. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from California State University, Fresno, serves on the board of SPJ Georgia and even rides a bike when time allows.