WOODBURY, Minn. — Sitting in Woodbury's City Council chambers while the four council members and some city staff connected virtually, Mayor Anne Burt issued a declaration of local emergency at the Wednesday, March 25 meeting in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The emergency declaration allows Burt to activate any necessary emergency operations, emergency management plans or pandemic response plans, and authorizes aid and services according to interjurisdictional agreements.

Under Minnesota statute, the declaration also allows the city to take actions like entering into contracts or other obligations to promote the health and safety of residents and provide emergency assistance if needed. It enables the city to bypass time-intensive procedures that involve spending public funds, including allowing purchasing without bidding, getting rid of tax levy limitations and loosening other budget requirements.

"At this point in time, we don't know the full width and breadth and length and depth of this whole situation, and it's a good action by the city to join other cities in declaring this emergency so that the full powers and flexibilities that are allowed under state statute are available to the city of Woodbury," City Administrator Clint Gridley said during the meeting.

The federal government has also taken action to create opportunities for cities to be reimbursed on costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the city wants to ensure it will be eligible for federal or state funds, Gridley said.

After the declaration, the council passed a separate resolution authorizing the actions laid out in the declaration and continuing the state of local emergency until further action is taken by the council.

The council is considering holding future meetings, including the next meeting scheduled for 7:30 p.m. April 8, virtually and continuing to broadcast them live on YouTube. Council workshops, while open to the public, are not normally broadcast but will be temporarily, said Jason Egerstrom, the city's communication manager. City hall is still open to the public during council meetings.

City buildings have been closed to the public since March 19, and Washington County issued a separate emergency declaration March 17.

The local emergency declared Jan. 8 to help speed up water treatment efforts related to PFAS contamination is ongoing.

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