The Sitka Assembly is further reinforcing a recent city recommendation to “shelter in place.” The assembly, on Tuesday (3-24-20) passed a resolution calling for Sitkans to “hunker down” in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

City administrator John Leach explained the difference between the “stay home order” included in the resolution and the “strong advisory” he made over the weekend. The advisory recommended people stay in their homes and asked non-essential businesses to close for 14 days.

“The intent of this was, I would say, to put a little more teeth behind what was already strongly recommended in my recommendation that went out Sunday,” he said.

The “stay home order” doesn’t ask Sitkans to stay inside at all times. There are many conditions- people can still go grocery shopping, go outside for fresh-air, and go to work if their jobs are deemed essential. And the list of businesses considered “essential” is long, including everything from hospitals and clinics, to bars and laundromats. 

Even with some leeway, not all assembly members were on board with the resolution. Member Valorie Nelson said the assembly should give the public more time to react to the resolution, which she felt was fueled by fear rather than facts. 

“We’re cutting off every person that’s trying to survive economically,” she said. “If we give up every liberty that we have because we’re in fear of something, then we’re doomed.”

But other assembly members said it wasn’t a mandate as much as it was reinforcing the city’s recommendation and reminding people to socially distance as much as possible.

As of Tuesday night, there were no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Sitka. But assembly member Steven Eisenbeisz said he didn’t want to wait for Sitka to become a “hotbed” of the virus before the city reacted.   

“I do sincerely hope this is overkill. I would ask all citizens to comply with it as much as possible. I apologize for the inconvenience of life that this is going to cause to some people,” he said. “Truthfully we all are in this together. Someday we will see the sunrise and we’ll be able to go out and we’ll be able to hug each other again.”

Ultimately the resolution passed 6-1 with member Nelson opposed. It ends on April 14.


In other business, the assembly…
– Authorized a policy that would allow up to 14 days of paid administrative leave for city staff.

-It unanimously voted to amend city code to define “Bulk retail” and add a section on rules and regulations for bulk retail, making bulk retail sales a conditional use in industrial zones  

-It unanimously voted down a proposed $30,000 in funds for the Crescent Harbor lightering float  

-It approved supplemental $88,500 for Sitka Police Department Litigation, on a 5-2 vote with members Richard Wein and Valorie Nelson opposed 

-It unanimously approved reappointing George D Bennett Jr. to a three year term on Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) and appointed Robert Hattle and Mim McConnell to three year terms on the LEPC. And it unanimously approved a liquor license renewal application for American Legion Post #13 and transfer of controlling interest application for Northern Lights Marijuana Retail.