The city of Bellingham’s government is open for business, even when its physical locations are closed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. As most community members “stay home and stay healthy,” City of Bellingham personnel continue to provide services that are essential to the community.
“We are prioritizing vital daily services, such as utilities and public safety services, and those services that position us for recovery, such as planning and building services,” Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood said. City departments remain operational allowing essential services to continue uninterrupted.
Mayor Fleetwood also said to protect the health of employees and others, City staff are telecommuting or using appropriate social distancing techniques while on the job. Many are doing their regular jobs in new ways, while others have been moved to new roles to address the COVID-19 emergency.
Bellingham Police Chief David Doll said officers continue patrolling and responding to calls as needed, while playing an important role encouraging people to stay home. He has emphasized his department is focused on education and voluntary compliance while enforcing the state-wide “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order.
The City’s Information Technology Services and Human Resources departments are vital to keeping City operations on track during this time, Mayor Fleetwood said.
Marty Mulholland, director of the Information Technology Services Department, said about 200 City employees are now working from remote locations. Many City services can be conducted online, by telephone, and via video, she said. A priority for her department is supporting these services with technology and training. Her department also provides technology support to the joint emergency operations center.
Many City departments have quickly become very innovative to continue services, Planning and Community Development Director Rick Sepler said. His department is using technology to process permit applications and conduct plan reviews, all essential for Bellingham’s economic recovery.
“We are open for business,” Sepler said. “We have established a number of ways for community members to contact us and submit applications. Construction is a significant contributor to our local economy and new housing is vital to address the housing crisis in our community. Thanks to our ability to provide these services remotely, construction on approved projects can begin immediately when the Governor’s restrictions are lifted.”
Interim Parks and Recreation Department Director Nicole Oliver said her staff “just want to help,” a sentiment that is shared City-wide. She said a high priority has been cleaning and sanitizing parks.
“Many of our recreation programs and activities have been postponed, and we have closed all facilities except trails. My staff are keeping essential services running, starting to manage vegetation, and reimagining how we can provide park services and popular recreation programs in the months ahead,” Oliver said.