The Scottsville Town Council has confirmed weather- and COVID-related local emergencies.
On Monday night, the council voted to confirm a severe weather emergency related to storms the night of July 28, as well as a COVID-delta variant emergency retroactively beginning Aug. 12.
The severe weather emergency can help with recovery efforts and insurance claims, while the COVID emergency, along with a new continuity of government ordinance, allows town committees and commissions the ability to meet virtually.
Town Administrator Matt Lawless had declared the severe weather emergency in July, but it needed to be ratified by the council.
Donna Price, the Scottsville District representative on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, said the county is working with the state to determine whether a state declaration of weather emergency may be appropriate.
“There are some steps that we have to go through in order to make sure that if that is requested and approved, that it’s done right,” she said. “Different from a federal declaration of an emergency, it does not provide the expectation of the same measure of response that a FEMA team would have, but the county is very concerned about what has been happening due to weather in the southern part of the county.”
Scottsville volunteer Jack Maxwell said he kept track of damages in the area, and told the council there were more than 300 reports of downed trees and that about four houses were destroyed.
“We’ll use our damage assessment, working with an insurance agent and Mr. Maxwell’s assessment, to describe what’s going on to Richmond and Washington and calibrate the response the right way,” Lawless said.
The town previously was under a local emergency due to COVID, from March 2020 until June of this year, and Lawless said he was again recommending a local emergency due to the delta variant.
The newly passed continuity of government ordinance allows elected and appointed bodies to meet electronically without a quorum physically present in one location during the emergency.
Councilor Daniel Gritsko said it makes it easier to govern.
“Whether we are meeting in person, or we’re meeting virtually, it allows both you as citizens, and us as councilors or mayor to respond at any given moment related to what’s happening,” he said.
Councilor Zachary Bullock noted that the ordinance doesn’t preclude councilors from meeting in person.
“What this allows us to do is be voting members of this body at a distance, which we would not be allowed to do if we did not have this declaration,” he said. “And so if one of us has to quarantine because we have an exposure, even if we’re not ill, we wouldn’t be able to participate in the public session or work sessions.”
Councilor Laura Mellusi, who said she was stepping down from the council at the end of the month due to her increased workload at work and home, said this will give flexibility to town staff and volunteers on committees to do their business.
“Having children in this high-risk category, I want to be a leader that takes the steps to give the flexibility and sets an example to keep them safe,” she said. “I’m very supportive. Even if it doesn’t feel like an emergency, this is one way to really show that we care.”