When the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, Marana’s response was swift. Mayor Honea issued a declaration of local emergency and town staff working the front counters implemented modified operations to serve the public, first with limited contact to keep everyone safe, then with facility closures. In an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure that our water and wastewater customers remain safe, healthy and have continued access to clean water, Marana Water suspended disconnections for non-payment and waived late fees until further notice. Special Events and Parks and Recreation staff canceled or postponed events and programming. Public Works implemented its emergency preparedness plan where all field staff were placed in teams to ensure service continuity, Marana Police created the Infectious Control position, and Technology Services provided digital options to town staff so we could follow Gov. Ducey’s executive order to stay connected as much as possible.
What followed our initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic was a town-wide effort to adapt to our new “normal,” which continues to evolve as the community reopens. Marana has taken significant measures to support our community during this time, particularly for our businesses enduring the economic impacts.
During the temporary closure of Town facilities, our Development Services and Engineering departments transitioned to 100 percent electronic submittals and reviews to prevent a delay or halt in regular business operations. In-person inspections were made virtual, and pre-application meetings were done over conference calls to provide remote services that protected our residents, community partners and town staff. The town also waived late fees for business license renewals to help those who had experienced financial setbacks to give them time to get back on their feet.
When the pandemic first reached Arizona, our local and state government had to act quickly, and we realized our businesses had to do the same. The Governor’s Office released a temporary signage order which suspended all permitting requirements for temporary signage so that communications could be immediately received by residents. We also realized that life will look a little different coming out of this pandemic, so we put measures in place to help businesses accommodate guidelines for customer service, including restaurant site expansions for outdoor seating.
Still, Marana recognizes that our business community has been through a lot. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented social and economic disruption, and economists agree that we are now in a recession. No models currently exist to quantify the magnitude or duration of the total financial impact, or the eventual recovery.
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Jamsheed Mehta is the Marana Town Manager.