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SEDRO-WOOLLEY — The Sedro-Woolley City Council convened online only Wednesday, barring the public and nonessential staff from entering City Hall in response to Gov. Jay Inslee’s “stay home, stay safe” order.

“It’s something we’ve never done before. ... I appreciate you making it happen,” Sedro-Woolley Mayor Julia Johnson said once 18 participants were connected by phone and web, including at least one member of the public. “These are uncharted waters we have been swimming in.”

While the state’s Open Public Meetings Act requires government meetings be held in facilities accessible to the public, Inslee waived some requirements of the act Tuesday for 30 days.

Sedro-Woolley isn’t alone in adjusting to Inslee’s mandate.

The city of Mount Vernon announced about 3 p.m. Wednesday that it was postponing its evening City Council meeting. That meeting is now rescheduled for an online-only session at 7 p.m. Thursday.

During the 30 days that some Open Public Meetings Act requirements are waived, governing bodies may only address “necessary and routine matters” as defined in state law, according to Inslee’s proclamation.

On Wednesday, the Sedro-Woolley City Council began its first digital meeting with a series of “hellos” and some trouble with the sound.

Within about 30 minutes, though, the council was able to approve paying bills and staff, pass an agreement in case emergency repairs are needed at the city wastewater treatment plant, and establish new policies in the face of COVID-19.

Those policies included telecommuting procedures and what is called a shared leave bank policy, which is an effort to make additional paid time off available to staff who may need it most.

“It’s for people who maybe are new or have had to use sick leave already for other reasons,” City Supervisor Doug Merriman said.

The policy allows city staff who have accrued more than 120 hours of paid time off to donate into a pool from which others can withdraw.

“When this is over, if there’s anything left, it will be divided up and given back to the donors,” Merriman said.

— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199, kcauvel@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kimberly_SVH, Facebook.com/bykimberlycauvel

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