Amid the spread of COVID-19, Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder signed an emergency declaration Wednesday. The declaration will be in effect until Illinos' emergency delcaration is lifted.
The Springfield City Council on Tuesday approved new rules for what powers the mayor has during an emergency.
With the declaration, the mayor can spend up to $100,000 without getting the council’s approval, but he has to notify the council within a day. Usually, the limit is $50,000. He could also call for citywide curfew.
“It gives the flexibility to use the structure of government as best as possible,” Langfelder said.
The rules were narrowed from the original proposal, taking out the ability to halt liquor or gun sales and close gas stations. The threshold for spending without council approval was proposed at $200,000. After a few aldermen raised concerns, it was lowered to $100,000.
Ward 9 Ald. Jim Donelan said he wasn’t in favor of the first proposal, but voted in favor of the new rules.
“Remember what we were being asked to do was to put language in the code not only for the present disaster, but future disasters,” Donelan said. He worried some of the were an overreach of power.
Illinois and Sangamon County also have emergency declarations in place, which free up money from state and federal governments to respond to a crisis. On Monday, the Sangamon County Board extended its’ disaster declaration until mid-April.
Even without Springfield’s declaration, the city’s attorney, Jim Zerkle, said the city could still ask the federal or state government for money spent on responding to the public health crisis. This is because Illinois’ declaration was already effective.
Meanwhile, Springfield residents with outstanding parking tickets or late utility bills can breathe a little easier.
The council approved a resolution reiterating the pause on city debt collection, and electricity and water shut-offs for City Water, Light and Power customers.
Ward 5 Ald. Andrew Proctor said he’s been hearing concerns from residents that many are facing job loss or dwindling business due to measures put in place to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
“The last thing they need to worry about is having their power cut off or water cut off, or is the city going to be after them for some violation or fee,” he said. “It’s one less thing for them to worry about during this time of crisis.”
The city’s administrative court hearings, which cover property code violations such as uncut grass or lack of garbage service, will be delayed, and residents will not accrue late fees or penalties during that time.
The court delay and suspension of downtown parking meter fees will be in effect until 14 days after the governor calls off Illinois’ state of emergency.
Other measures, including the pause to utility disconnection and city debt collection, will be in place 30 days after the emergency is lifted.
This story has been updated with news that Mayor Jim Langfelder signed an emergency declaration on Wednesday.