‘Civil emergency’ declared in Okemah
By Ken Childers
In response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, a civil emergency has been declared in Okemah.
A proclamation declaring the emergency was signed by Mayor Mike Fuller in an emergency meeting of the Okemah City Council held Thursday afternoon at city hall.
Here is the gist of the proclamation as it relates to local businesses: As of March 20, restaurants are limited to take-out and delivery only (no inside dining). Pre-packaged alcoholic beverages may be included in take-out and delivery sales. Bars and similar venues without on premises food were ordered to be closed by 5 p.m. on March 19. In addition, all athletic gyms and similar facilities were ordered to close at 12:01 a.m. on March 20. The order will remain in effect until the city council declares the emergency terminated.
Local government operations have also been affected, as the lobby of city hall is closed as of last Thursday. Utility payments may be made using the drop box located in the police department. The drop box accepts only cash, checks and money orders. Credit card payments may be made by phone (918-623-1050) or online at www.okemahutilities.com. The city library is also closed until further notice.
According to City Manager Dustin Danker, the city will not cut off water services for non payment while the emergency persists, adding that he would revisit the situation on April 6. The facilities at Okemah Lake remain open.
Monday’s regular meeting of the Okemah City Council was also cancelled as a result of the emergency declaration. The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 13.
Also under the proclamation, gatherings of 10 people or more on city property are now prohibited and special permits previously issued for events with a projected attendance of 10 or more people have been revoked. No special events may be held in the city until further notice.
On Friday, it was announced that the Annual Pioneer Days Celebration scheduled for Saturday, April 25 had been cancelled. Event organizers released the following statement via social media: “As much as this saddens me, Pioneer Day is officially cancelled for this year. I know this will upset some but we must take all steps necessary to protect the health and well being of all citizens.”
The Okfuskee County Board of County Commissioners has taken action similar to that of the city by closing the county courthouse. County officials and employees are maintaining their regular office hours during the closure, which went into effect last Wednesday.
To stay in compliance with the state’s open meeting laws, the county commissioners meetings held at 9 a.m. each Monday at the courthouse remain open to the public. Those wishing to attend must use the north entrance door. Attendees may face a questionnaire and/or a temperature check by the deputy on duty. Monday morning, the commissioners voted to keep the courthouse closed, but will revisit the issue at each meeting.
Offices in the courthouse have made changes while the courthouse remain closed. County Clerk’s office said all documents must be mailed or sent electronically with Simplifile. Tax payments to the County Treasurer’s office may be made only by check, money order or cashiers check. Payments may also be made online. Passport services are not available from the court clerk’s office during the shutdown.