ALPHARETTA, Ga. — In response to a Fulton County Board of Public Health order earlier this week, the Alpharetta City Council revised its emergency ordinance Wednesday, tightening restrictions on travel and assembly.
The ordinance, which passed in a 7-0 vote, directs all residents to remain in their homes and bans all unnecessary travel.
The measure comes in anticipation of a statewide “shelter in place” order Gov. Brian Kemp says he plans to implement by Friday.
Close to 300 people linked in digitally to follow the special Wednesday night meeting, many posting comments along the way.
The heightened restrictions ban gatherings of “any number of people occurring outside a single household or living unit” except for essential business operations and other limited purposes covered in the ordinance. It does not prohibit assembly of households.
City Attorney Sam Thomas said the city is setting up a system by which to field complaints by residents, and, if necessary, enforce the code. He said citations would be used as a last resource.
The ordinance does not prohibit travel for medications, groceries or supplies necessary to maintain a household, Thomas said.
Some of the comments posted during the meeting declared the conditions in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Others asked for calm and cooperation to ensure safety during the coronavirus pandemic.
Many of the questions dealt with which businesses could still operate.
The ordinance, itself, closes all non-essential businesses, except in cases where maintenance of the operation is required, such as bookkeeping and general upkeep.
In reply to one question from a resident, Thomas said he interpreted the list of essential businesses to include public and private construction, as long as the work was performed in accordance with individual distancing requirements.
Unlike traditional council meetings held at City Hall and unlike the first online council meeting March 23, participants Wednesday were not allowed to key in to speak.
Mayor Jim Gilvin said the technology simply wasn’t sophisticated enough to handle audio remarks with a crowd so large. He did, however set aside time for audience members to post their remarks.
That didn’t go over well with resident Daniel McAlonan who opened his mic to tell the mayor that elected officials should afford residents the chance to speak on such an important matter. Ultimately, Gilvin had McAlonan’s voice access blocked.
Before he left the board, though, McAlonan posted his thoughts on how city officials were conducting business.
“It's a big meeting, but the mayor should hold a normal public comment period,” he wrote. “Extraordinary measures should be responded by in kind by our elected officials. I defend this measure and I agree with it, but the mayor and council should allow due process and a proper comment period.”
The mayor did allot time for those linked in to the meeting to post their comments. None were read aloud.
Many of the comments dealt with which businesses were allowed to remain in operation.
Businesses specifically listed in the ordinance as essential for continued operations include:
- Healthcare facilities
- Grocery and supply stores
- Farming and food production operations
- Gas stations
- Businesses that provide food, shelter and social services to the needy
- Lodging businesses
- Plumbers, electricians and other trades that ensure safe, sanitary conditions to residences and businesses
- Mailing and shipping services
- Educational operations
- Laundry operations
- Restaurants that employ drive-thru, pickup or delivery
- Care facilities cafeterias
- Businesses that provide products for people to work from home
- Businesses that ship or deliver food or goods to residences
- Professional services, such as legal or accounting
- Veterinary care and animal shelters
- Childcare facilities
- Funeral homes and cemeteries
- Utility companies
The mayor said he appreciates the sacrifices residents have made over the past month. Nearly all have shown a willingness to abide by safety guidelines, he said. The new restrictions, he said, will help ensure the safety of all citizens.
“We have no intention of putting up road blocks and questioning people about where they’re going,” Gilvin said. “Within a few weeks, we ought to be able to weather this storm together as long as we all do what we need to do. We need to stay home.”