“Our most important task was to keep all critical City services full functional,” said Escondido City Manager Jeffrey R. Epp when interviewed earlier this week about how the city is carrying out its jobs during the COVID-19 lockdown ordered by Governor Gavin Newsom.
This week will include an historical first for the city: a city council meeting held online using technology.
The city manager told The Times-Advocate, “Although added cleaning and safety precautions are being taken, our Police and Fire Departments are responding normally. The dispatchers request additional information from callers to make sure that the arriving crews are prepared in case someone has COVID-19 symptoms. We’ve made sure our stocks of supplies are good and are in touch with the County to keep supply lines intact.”
The Dixon Lake Filtration (Water) Plant and the Hale Avenue Wastewater functions already have detailed protocols in place for cleanliness and sanitation; those operations are proceeding normally. Public Works has closed their public counter, but crews are filling potholes, replacing streetlights, cleaning storm drains, etc. as normal, said Epp.
“Although City Hall is closed, we were able to move business licensing entirely online; utility bill payment either uses a drop box or is online,” said Epp. “Our Planning and Engineering teams are doing business out of the Mitchell Room on an appointment and online basis. Our inspectors are still out in the field, doing inspections, while maintaining social distancing.”
Epp added, “The Communications Team has been working overtime to monitor events and keep the public informed, with social media (Facebook, Instagram) used actively and our website updates at least once a day with contact links and current local information. Our Emergency Operations Center opened to a low level (Three) to centralize information and decision making. I am in touch on a daily basis with all of the other San Diego County city managers.”
Epp said that the toughest decisions he has had to make have involved closing down both events and facilities to comply with the State and County orders. “Fortunately, Escondido has large parks, Daley Ranch, and many other areas for walking and getting outdoors while still maintaining social distancing!”
The city has re-deployed many of its part time workers to serving food and helping other departments keep their operations going. “We’ve developed a list of businesses that serve take out and publicized that with social media and on the website. This helps support the local economy,” he said.
This week the city council will make history by meeting entirely online using video and other technology. “This will be a first in Escondido’s history!” said Epp.
The city manager concluded, “Overall, I am so impressed with the men and women on the City team—these folks have been dedicated, professional, and working however many hours are necessary to keep services going. Morale is very good and we’re learning new things and new ways of doing business every day. In short, this is tough but like the rest of the country, we are adapting!”