By Caitlin Herrington
WALHALLA — Decisions that would normally take weeks to make and receive council approval have moved quickly for Oconee County since county council passed a state of emergency ordinance last week.
The ordinance allows county administrator Amanda Brock to utilize “all available resources of county government as reasonably necessary to cope with an emergency,” under the advisement of the county attorney, emergency services director and council chairman.
“The administrator can mandate a little more than normal if it’s in response to the emergency and in the best interest of the county,” county council chairman Julian Davis said. “She can’t pass ordinances; it doesn’t increase spending powers, and she’s not making hasty decisions on her own.”
Certain suspensions of typical operations — the county park closures and recycling halt, for example — would normally need council approval, leaving vulnerable workers in popular areas with lots of foot traffic.
“Normally, suspension of recycling would have to go through council,” Davis said. “Ms. Brock found it would be safer and better for our workers to take that off the table for now, and we agreed. She has to make sure we stay in compliance — like with the people we sell our glass to — of proper day-to-day operations. If she feels that the police should be in a specific area, she can mandate that and she can use any resources employee-wise.”
Brock said she has moved employees around to different offices to adhere to social distancing recommendations while keeping critical departments up and running. The recent operational changes are “an example of the fluidity of the state of emergency,” she said.
The ordinance has also allowed her to move employees from one department to another — utilizing workers who are less busy this time of year in high-traffic areas like the registrar and tax office where drive-up options are available.
The declaration is in place until emergency conditions associated with COVID-19 have subsided “and the emergency activities in Oconee County are no longer necessary to protect the life and property of our citizens.”
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