LANCASTER, Wis. — Lancaster Common Council members this week unanimously approved an extension of Mayor David Varnum’s state of emergency declaration due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Council members agreed to extend it through June 15.
The proclamation also gives the mayor the authority to modify it or to end it early if Varnum deems it to be in the best interests of the residents and employees of the City of Lancaster.
The proclamation continues to suspend all city ordinances, resolutions and policies that require a gathering or face-to-face contact for public meetings.
It gives Varnum the authority to decide whether city recreation programs should be offered this summer and when the new municipal swimming pool should open. The pool is set to be filled with water next week for the upcoming season, and staff training will be held June 2. Opening day for the facility remains June 10.
The proclamation does not order businesses in the city to close.
City Attorney David Helmke told the council that it had the authority to issue the proclamation under state statute.
He said the recent Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling that vacated Gov. Tony Evers’ order dealt with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services using authority it did not have in the state constitution to close businesses.
The attorney said the Wisconsin League of Municipalities indicated that it was unclear whether municipalities could ramp up restrictions on businesses. He also said Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce has stated it is ready to challenge any community that makes an attempt to do that.
Lancaster Council President Shayne LaBudda said he was hoping for broader action. He said residents told him they want and are looking for local action in terms of public health, especially after the court ruling.
Later in the meeting, City Administrator David Carlson said staff is taking steps to prepare to reopen City Hall to the public by developing an action plan.
It will address two key areas: the physical operations and how to protect both city staff and the public; and how city operations change.
But he said he does not know when City Hall will reopen. “When will it happen? Next week? Next month? Next year? Although I certainly hope it will happen before next year.”
But given the state-of-emergency order, it won’t happen before June 15.