NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. — The City of Neptune Beach says its City Hall and Public Works buildings are closed after a COVID-19 outbreak among employees.
Neptune Beach Mayor, Elaine Brown, tells Action News Jax Reporter Ryan Nelson 15 employees are at home because of the outbreak.
Brown says the employees who are at home have either tested positive for COVID-19, or are quarantining out of an abundance of caution.
“They came back between Monday after Christmas and just before New Year’s,” Brown said.
Brown tells Action News Jax the people impacted by the virus include a city council member, police officers and public works employees.
She says a 16th employee, a police officer, had COVID-19 recently, but has since tested negative.
She believes holiday gatherings may have played a role in the outbreak, but says she isn’t blaming employees for the outbreak.
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“I think the holidays came into play. I really do,” said Brown. “... I’m certainly not blaming my employees. I’m so sorry that they have this, and I wish them well. I want them to all come out of this okay.”
Brown says the police department is not experiencing a shortage of officers on duty following the outbreak, and says there should be no interruption to public works services.
Brown tells us all employees are being tested, and can return to work with negative test results.
She says the city council meeting scheduled for Monday night was postponed to January 18th.
Meanwhile, Brown tells Nelson she’s requested Governor Ron DeSantis allow quorums through virtual meetings.
She says doing so would allow the council the meet and vote 100% virtually, without having to have a quorum present in-person at City Hall.
Brown says the Governor’s executive order permitting 100% virtual quorums and voting was not extended into 2021.
“He ought to make sure that until we get all these inoculations done, and the spike starts to settle, that he ought to, again, give us the emergency order to go ahead and be able to have the virtual meetings,” Brown said.
Statement from Neptune Beach City Manager, Stefen Wynn:
“The City of Neptune Beach has altered operations and closed the City Hall and Public Works Buildings to the general public due to a COVID-19 virus outbreak among employees. Mayor Elaine Brown said the City was forced to take action to protect the public and employees from the virus. “We are still providing essential services and police protection but under modified activities,” she said.
The Mayor has requested Governor DeSantis to once again permit quorums through virtual meetings since the process was not extended into 2021.
Mayor Brown says, “the vaccines are going to take a while to distribute and virtual meetings will add to protecting the public and our employees as we conduct City business.”
According to City Manager Stefen Wynn, nearly every department of the City has been affected by positive cases of the virus, including top City Officials.
He emphasized that the services provided by the city are essential and although the City has closed its buildings to the public, those services will continue uninterrupted.
Police will continue to provide protection, and patrol the City; the City’s utilities will continue to flow.
Utility Payments are accepted: online, automated over the phone, and through the (2) drop boxes located at the front door, or along Lemon Street between ity Hall and the Police Department.
If a resident experiences a hardship, payment arrangements can be made by calling: (904) 270-2400.
“We urge everyone to continue to practice the recommended precautions as outlined by the CDC during these conditions and as we move forward with much needed vaccinations,” Brown said.
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