As the governor and county judge struggle daily as to how and when to change directives concerning the spread of COVID-19, the leadership of the city of Harker Heights continues to serve its residents.
The doors are locked and there is no foot traffic in the lobby at City Hall on Millers Crossing, but behind those walls work goes on as usual, despite some changes.
Director of Public Relations Jerry Bark told the Herald, “It’s important to note that the city is still open for business through our online and telephone services. The staff has been swamped with a ton of calls, but that’s why we’re here. Each department has a skeleton crew that rotates daily.”
Employee work schedules have been altered for the city staff.
Emergency Services (police and fire) continue to operate as usual except for the administrative staff.
Staff members from Information Technology, the city secretary, library and planning departments are working from remote locations.
The city staffers who are on duty practice social distancing, washing of hands, and no meetings being held within City Hall with more than 10 people in a single room.
On March 16, Gov. Greg Abbott suspended certain requirements imposed by the Open Meetings Act to slow the spread of COVID-19. This action permits meetings subjected to the Open Records Act to be hosted by telephone or videoconference. A quorum of the council must still meet even in this setting.
The council has meetings planned on April 14 and 25. A webinar platform is being tested by the city staff for use at the meeting on the 14th.
In Harker Heights, the following have been canceled or closed until further notice: All court dates, Activities Center, all senior programs and events, library, Recreation Center, open gym, all gym programming and activities, all recreation center room reservations, playgrounds, basketball courts, restrooms and water fountains, all outdoor facility rentals, all adult and youth sports including league scheduled practices, meetings and assessments.
Concerning utility collections, the lobby is closed. For establishing new accounts or scheduling payments, please call 254-953-5630.
All payments should be made by utilizing the drive-thru window at City Hall or online at:www.harkerheights.gov/index.php/online-water-bill-payment or by phone at 254-953-5630.
The Court Administration is available to receive payments at City Hall. The Kiosk, located in the drive-thru lane at City Hall, can receive court payments.
Bark said, “These closures, amended hours and cancelations are in collaboration with Bell County, state and federal recommendations to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”
The city’s permitting process is not on hold, but it has changed slightly. Permits can only be accomplished by utilizing the online permit software found on the city’s webpage (ci.harker-heights.tx.us).
The inspections are set by appointment only by calling the Inspection Hotline at 254-953-5661.
To assist in reducing the spread of COVID-19, the city no longer accepts planning and zoning documents. That process is currently suspended due to minimal staffing levels.
City Manager David Mitchell, said, “Governor Abbott and Bell County Judge David Blackburn have extended the shelter-in-place order for the state and county through the end of April. The changes that have occurred to city operations will extend out to that point with some tweaks along the way, as needed.
“The city fully supports providing all we can to our citizens and employees during these difficult times,” Mitchell said. “As such, we are continuing to provide pay and benefits to all employees.”