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Bethel City Council Moves Meetings Online And Bolsters COVID-19 Response

Aug 26, 2020

Bethel City Council hired a new Emergency Operations Director, moved all its meetings online, and gave another $500,000 to Bethel Community Services Foundation for coronavirus relief programs.
Credit Katie Basile / KYUK

Bethel city council took some steps to bolster its response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Aug. 25, including hiring former council member Leif Albertson to be the city's Emergency Operations Director, citing his expertise in public health.

Albertson will head the Emergency Operations Center and be paid $85/hour, according to the city’s CARES Act budget. Albertson said that he could normally work 10 hours a week, because of his job at the University of Alaska, but he could ramp up those hours in the event of an emergency.

The council also voted unanimously to hold all its public meetings virtually going forward, including committee meetings. Vice-mayor Haley Hanson introduced the change.

“I've heard a lot over the weeks and months about the city not doing enough when it comes to COVID, and protecting people, and mandates and that,” Hanson said. “And I just thought this was a good time to be a good example of walking the walk and not just talking the talk.”

Councilors and members of the city's commissions and committees can be reimbursed $10 dollars per meeting to pay for internet costs.

The council also directed $500,000 dollars to Bethel Community Services Foundation for nonprofit organizations. City Clerk Lori Strickler said that the majority of that money would go to Tundra Women’s Coalition. Executive Director Eileen Arnold explained that TWC has a program to distribute financial aid to individuals to help pay bills if they were laid off, were furloughed, or cannot go to work because they are quarantining.