The city of Logan is taking baby steps toward normal operations in the wake of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s announcement on Tuesday easing COVID-19 restrictions.
The key word here is “baby.”
Mayor Holly Daines said employees who’ve been working at home as a safety precaution since early in the pandemic will be asked to return to their city offices. However, City Hall, the library and the recreation center will remain closed to the public until the impact of more lenient controls becomes clear. Also, Municipal Council meetings will likely continue online for the time being, using the Zoom platform.
“We’re all sort of knocking on wood. As we start to open back up, I think the concern is do you start to have the number of cases go back up again,” Daines said. “I hope not. I’ve had a number of employees working from home. … I’ve asked them, based on the governor’s guidelines, to come back to work on Monday morning, but I’m not opening the lobbies just yet.”
Among measures announced by Gov. Herbert and taking effect Friday are expansion of the public-gathering limit from 10 to 20 people and the allowance of restaurant dining-area reopenings under certain conditions.
In accordance with the change, Logan will remove caution tape from sidewalk tables along the newly renovated block of Center Street in downtown Logan.
The tables, which are owned by the city and placed in front of restaurants, will be spaced farther apart to allow better social distancing.
Daines was on Center Street last week to place the final stone on the last flower box installed on the block and will return Friday morning for the reopening of the tables, which had only just been put out in March when the pandemic shut things down.
“The bricklayer asked, ‘Do you want to come over and put on the last rock before we put the capstone on top?’ And and I said ‘Sure, I want to have a little fingerprint there’ — not that anyone will know,” Daines said.
The mayor is optimistic about the prospects of a downtown revival, starting with Center Street and moving on to “Center Block,” where several competing plans are being debated and the fate of the old Emporium building is still up in the air.
Workers on Center Street unearthed some Cache Valley history last fall when trolley tracks from the early 1900s were exposed and removed. The mayor saved some of the tracks with the thought of creating a display for visitors, and she hopes this and possibly some other art installations can be approved for the area in the near future.
“We actually did put a little money in the budget this year to maybe do some public art. It’s not much, and council hasn’t approved it, but I will be giving my budget message to council at our next City Council meeting,” she said. “If we are able to move ahead with Center Block and the walkways that connect Center Street to Center Block, I think that could be a great opportunity for some public art, but again, that’s still in the conceptual stage right now.”
In an interview with The Herald Journal on Wednesday, Daines said the total impact of the COVID-19 crisis on city revenue will not be known for several months, when sales tax collection numbers become available. So far, there have been no layoffs or work-hour reductions for city employees, and she does not anticipate any, even if sales tax revenue is down.
“You know during the 2008-2009 recession, we did cut budgets, but we did not have to lay any people off, and that was because we had really good reserves, and our finance director (Richard Anderson) is extremely proactive in terms of that. Our reserves are pretty much as high as the state limits will allow, so we think we’re in pretty good shape to weather the storm.”
Daines noted that about $2 million of the city’s annual revenue comes from property tax and $11 million comes from sales tax.