The city of Janesville declared a state of emergency Wednesday, one day after Gov. Tony Evers’ safer at home order went into effect.
City Manager Mark Freitag announced the decision in a news release.
“It is now time to implement a State of Emergency declaration in the City of Janesville,” Freitag says in the release. “This is an administrative function that allows the City to acquire additional supplies, personal protective equipment and other resources to continue to respond to COVID-19 effectively. I am confident in the City’s emergency management team and all city employees who continue to serve their community during this challenging time.”
Declaring a state of emergency allows the city to be eligible for additional funding at both the state and national levels and allows Freitag to make purchases, sign contracts and modify internal policies, which typically would require council approval.
The Janesville City Council will be able to approve, amend or repeal the declaration at a future special city council meeting, which has not yet been scheduled, according to the release.
Molly Nolte, public information officer for the city, told The Gazette on Wednesday that while the term “emergency” sounds scary, the order is mainly administrative in nature.
“Even though it sounds like a scary term—you know, ‘state of emergency’ kind of has a bad flavor to it—but that’s just what the administrative function is called. Really what it is is a tool we can put in motion so we can have access to state and federal resources that are often required when it comes to responding to any type of emergency,” she said.
Nolte said the city talked about the timing of the declaration last week. At that point there weren’t multiple confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Rock County, which is why the city waited, she said
Rock County had six confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of 4 p.m. Wednesday, according to a press release from the Rock County Public Health Department.
“Now that it’s progressing and the governor has declared his emergency order No. 12 yesterday, with that plus the multiple cases in our county the city manager thought the time was right now to declare that (state of emergency) and go forward with it,” Nolte said.
Prior to Wednesday’s emergency declaration, the city had activated level 2 emergency operations, which reduced non-essential services and staffing but maintained core services including police and fire services, and public works functions such as sanitation, water and wastewater and others.
City services won’t change from the previous adjustments, and the city will continue to offer limited services.
Nolte said the declaration is another tool to help the city continue to handle the virus smoothly as possible.
“The city is running very smoothly. Our emergency operations center, we have been training in that facility for five years. We have a dedicated staff who complete training year-round to prepare for things just like this.
“We are hopeful that the community is resting easy that we have all of that in place. … we have people working around the clock to make sure that no matter what direction this goes, they can still rely on those core city facilities like police, fire and the department of public works, and if they have questions there will be someone here to answer the phone,” Nolte said.