Press Release: June 10, 2020
The City of Alma’s municipal buildings closed their doors to the public on March 19, 2020 in response to the Governor’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order. Since that day staff has attempted to maintain a level of service to the community while working from home, telephone, email, or the zoom meeting platform. Many of our services were reduced or stopped due to the virus. The city commission and staff worked together at a very difficult time to develop a much different budget than had been expected for the upcoming FY2021 year. Progress has been made and some of the restrictions have been lifted that allow the City to start conducting a level of in person business again. The process of opening municipal buildings began on June 8, 2020 with the Alma Transportation Center re-opening in person business at the center. On June 15, 2020 the municipal building (including police department) and library will open with limited contact.
The Re-Opening Committee began planning three weeks ago and developed a full plan that is available on our website at www.myalma.org. It is understood that there are many diverse opinions on how quickly, or how wide ranging the opening should be, especially to start. We will continue to monitor the process and assess the plan’s effectiveness on a weekly basis.
In addition to the health and safety concerns COVID-19 has presented, the shutdown of the economy is expected to have a major impact on Alma’s FY2021 budget. On May 26th the City Commission adopted the FY2021 Budget which had been reduced by nearly 12% from the original planned budget that was in place as late as March 4, 2020. This is a substantial change in a very short period of time. This reduction has forced the City to make difficult decisions in terms of staffing and resource allocation. The employees of the City are committed to providing the best service possible to this community, but it is naïve to believe that type of reduction in finances will not be evident. There will be no cost of living allowance (COLA) adjustment for city employees for the FY2021 year. Public Works seasonal employees who do a majority of the mowing and trimming of city property, including the cemetery have not be hired due to the financial projections. This puts an immense strain on staff to maintain our grounds. A number of employees in multiple departments will be participating in a workshare program through the State of Michigan that effectively lays them off for one or two days a week through the end of August, thus reducing the city’s cost in payroll. In an attempt to save energy costs, the municipal building and public works garage will be closed on Fridays for the months of June, July, and August. Employees in affected departments will be working 4-day, 10-hour shifts during that time. While none of these decisions were easy, we believe they were essential to ease what could be a substantial revenue shortage over the next 18 months.
Staff in the municipal building will be available for appointments Monday – Thursday from 7am – 6pm. Staff direct line phone numbers are available online at www.myalma.org/staff-directory.php. The service counter will be open from 12:30 pm – 3:30 pm daily for walk ups. Appointments are encouraged for anyone wishing to conduct business inside the building. Entry to the building (police department included) will be through the west door (river side) and exit will be to the east. Interior doors will be locked with a video doorbell for access in the vestibule. Any visitor whose business requires they enter the municipal building shall be met at the West door by staff. Prior to entrance all visitors shall have their temperature checked by staff. The City of Alma requires that any member of the public able to medically tolerate a face covering must wear a covering over his or her nose and mouth, such as a homemade mask, scarf, bandana or handkerchief, while conducting business inside the municipal building. Likewise, staff making contact shall exercise the same courtesy.
We have started on online City Services Made Easier program that is linked on our homepage. Many of our services are available right from your home. In addition to the drop box located just outside the municipal building’s west doors, we are in the process of creating a drive thru drop box at the Alma Public Library across the street.
Open spaces and trails have remained open in the city parks throughout the quarantine. Playgrounds will once again open to the public on June 10, 2020 at 10 am. We ask that people please follow the appropriate health guidelines when visiting the parks. Remember to social distance from non-household members and wear a face mask or covering. Use hand sanitizer before and after using any play equipment. Bathrooms will not be open at this time. Note: Riverside Park will remain closed as it sustained damage in the flood two weeks ago. Updates will be posted as soon as there are any changes.
The Alma Public Library has developed a staged reopening plan that is available on their web page that can be reached through a link on myalma.org’s department pages. The first stage begins on June 15th where the library will be offering curbside pickup Monday – Friday 10am – 5pm. Request your items online or over the phone, set an appointment for pickup, and staff will meet you at your car. The building will not be open to the public, but staff will be available to answer questions vial phone or email as well as delivering books until a yet to be determined date for stage 2.
City administrators and staff appreciate the patience the Alma Community has shown through this very difficult time. It is understood that there are still many questions about the virus and the effects on our budget, but it is nice to start planning for a re-opening.