The March 1 online Tahlequah City Council meeting was interrupted three times by someone from the public playing an obscene audio clip.
Councilors and department heads were updating the public when loud, obscene music began playing via Zoom. City officials issued a statement shortly afterward and said it has become necessary to vet individuals who request to join the meeting.
“Those responsible for the attack where promptly removed from the meeting; however, we quickly discovered that as soon as one was removed, another unknown individual would join and attack,” the officials said. “We sincerely apologize for this unfortunate occurrence and we are working diligently to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
Task force officials informed the public that COVID-19 numbers are still trending downward. Ward 1 Tahlequah City Councilor Bree Long said the Crisis Task Force met earlier that day and Northeastern Health Systems reported improved positivity rates.
“The vaccines are in Phase 2, which includes patients over age 65 with comorbidities,” said Long. “They’ve also been able to vaccinate their staff and first responders.”
Long said about 3,011 vaccines have been given through NSH, and new developments on the single-dose vaccine will be announced soon.
“Our city Emergency Management will be distributing PPE supplies to school districts throughout Cherokee County,” said Long.
The mask mandate, which is set to expired at the end of March, won’t be lifted anytime soon, Long said.
“Cherokee Nation also reiterated that daily cases are dropping and they’ve been able to give over 25,000 vaccines through their locations,” said Long. “They are on Phase 3 of their vaccination plan, which includes anyone over age 16. They also encourage everybody to continue mitigation measures, which include social distancing and continuing to mask up.”
Ward 4 City Councilor Trae Ratliff, head of the Economic Recovery Task Force team, said even though numbers are trending downward, now is not the time to let our guard down.
“Now is really the time to batten down, even though it appears the numbers are trending a direction that we want,” said Ratliff. “There’s really no reason to let off the safety measures or protocols that we’ve been following. Let’s keep this thing headed south.”
The board approved authorizing the update of the multihazard mitigation plan. Emergency Management Director Mike Underwood said Meshek and Associates is developing the plan.
“The reason we’re asking for this resolution is to hopefully receiving CRS points, which are community response points, and it’s somewhat like what the fire department has — a fire rating,” said Underwood. “This helps us especially for disasters, either manmade or natural; it also coincides with the [city's] flood plain program."
The Hazard Mitigation Plan help communities become more sustainable by focusing on hazardous and disastrous areas.
The board gave its nod to overtime pay in lieu of comp time for employees who worked extra hours during February’s winter storm. M’Lynn Pape, director of Human Resources, said staff with the street department worked 12-hour shifts around the clock to clear roadways.
“This is a one-time deal and an opportunity to recognize them for their hard work," said Pape. "We’ve got a lot of street projects working so it’s not like they can take off a lot of time.”
City Administrator Alan Chapman praised the crew members.
“They kept the sanitation trucks running, they keep the police cars running, and the fire department running by cleaning the streets and working 12-hour days,” said Chapman.
Councilors also lifted the moratorium to hire a building inspector. Pape said a panel of city officials and department heads want to hire Richard Coffron. Compliance Coordinator Ray Hammons said Coffron would be a great addition to the city.
“I appreciate you guys bearing with me until we get to where we need to be on this thing,” said Hammons. “It’s going to fill a void and it’ll take a load off me, and I’m happy about that.”
The next Tahlequah City Council meeting is Monday, March 15 at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall.