MOUNTAIN IRON — The Mountain Iron City Council navigated the “uncharted waters” of the COVID-19 pandemic on a local level Monday, holding an emergency meeting to adopt a declaration of emergency.

The mayor’s declaration allows the activation of the city’s Emergency Operations Plan.

Social distancing was practiced at the meeting, with some city officials sitting in the audience as the group discussed ways the city is enacting caution during the virus outbreak.

In addition to officially closing city hall to the public and temporarily suspending online processing fees for utility bills, the city is extending its disconnect cold weather rule until May 31, which prevents the disconnection of utilities due to delinquent accounts.

Director of Public Works Tim Satrang said employees are following a “decontaminating routine” — “going through buildings and cleaning.” City vehicles are also being wiped down.

And the city has temporarily suspended curbside recycling and the collection of cardboard.

A new study performed by the National Institutes of Health and other researchers found COVID-19 can remain on cardboard surfaces for 24 hours.

Satrang said the city is “going to try to provide a few dumpsters.” And skid-steers will be used to prevent workers from handling materials. “We are trying to provide PPE (personal protective equipment),” such as disposable gloves for city workers.

The declaration of local emergency also allows the city administrator and other appropriate staff to “request and coordinate appropriate aid and resources from surrounding jurisdictions, cities, counties, the state of Minnesota, and the federal government, as needed.”

Satrang said he has talked with public works directors in the Quad Cities about working together as needed and finding the “best possible ways to help each other” if and when situations arise.

“This reminds me of Y2K preparation,” he said, referring to the computer programming problem that was expected to cause havoc as the year changed from 1999 to 2000.

The declaration also offers the option of using alternatives to in-person meetings of the council and its subcommittees, and allows for seeking untraditional sources of financial aid and relief from the county, state and federal sources during the pandemic.

Councilor Steve Skogman asked about “emergency bed space” — “places to put people and feed people” if conditions warranted. “We may never need it,” he said.

City Administrator Criag Wainio said possible locations would be Nichols Town Hall and the Mountain Iron Senior Center.

“We are in uncharted waters,” and the city will adjust as necessary to the unexpected situation of the pandemic, Mayor Gary Skalko said.

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