Jefferson County commissioners conducted their regular committee meeting Tuesday in the new normal way, returning to a virtual platform.
With hospitalizations climbing to unprecedented levels, county leaders invoked Section 3 of the emergency declaration they enacted March 16 to permit virtual meetings.
“We’re trying to serve the citizens in the safest manner possible that we can get that done,” Commission President Jimmie Stephens said. “We’re asking all of our citizens to be safe and know that the county is there for them. We will serve them and be there for them.
“But please be safe out there and understand that this COVID-19 is real and it’s touching all of us.”
County manager Tony Petelos said that seeing there were zero COVID-specific ICU beds open in Jefferson County on Monday morning prompted the discussion to shift to a virtual meeting. There also were 14 regular ICU beds available in the county at that time.
“We’ve got to be more careful,” he said. “Instead of bringing a lot of folks in this room, we just recommended it to Commissioner Stephens yesterday and he agreed, so we decided to go ahead and move to this format.”
Petelos later said, “I know that all the hospitals have expanded their (COVID-designated) ICU capacity, and then it’s still zero. We haven’t seen the pre-Christmas party surge. We haven’t seen the Christmas surge. We haven’t seen the New Year’s Eve surge. That’s coming. We decided that it would be safer, for now, to continue (with virtual meetings).”
Health care officials have warned to expect COVID rates to continue rising at least through the end of the month, possibly into February, because of holiday gatherings.
No Penalty for Late-Arriving Tax Payments
During the virtual committee meeting Tuesday, Petelos said his office had fielded calls from residents who were concerned they would be assessed penalties if they sent in their property taxes on time but the checks were received late. He acknowledged that late-arriving tax payments may not be the fault of the taxpayer because of delays with the Postal Service.
“The post office has tractor-trailer trucks loaded with mail that hadn’t been delivered. They’re way behind,” he said. “And we had to put some folks in quarantine in the Tax Collector’s Office because of a possible COVID case. We’re way behind. That’s one job you can’t work from home.
“If anybody mailed their property taxes in (and) it’s postmarked before Dec. 31, they don’t have to worry about any penalties. It’s OK,” Petelos said.
On another matter, commissioners put a resolution on Thursday’s commission agenda to send $16,555.75 in Cares Act funds to Jimmie Hale Mission. Congress last week extended the deadline for spending Cares Act funds. But Petelos said funding for Jimmie Hale already had been in the works, anyway. “Once that is done,” he said, “we’re done with Cares Act. That’s the last thing that we have on the Cares Act.”