The March 23 Bethel City Council meeting will be a busy one. The council is looking at its most stacked agenda in months.
The council is expected to vote on a permanent addition to the city code that would make it an offense to deface City of Bethel public property, carrying a possible $1,000 fine. The measure specifically condemns graffiti with demeaning slurs or sexual language.
The city council is also looking at extending the city’s COVID-19 emergency declaration, and extending mask requirements and the moratorium on shutting off water deliveries to those who haven’t been able to pay.
And the final COVID-19 mandate, if passed, would exempt vaccinated passengers traveling to Bethel from testing mandates. Fully vaccinated passengers are already exempt from quarantine, but non-vaccinated travelers to Bethel must present a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival. Travelers who are not vaccinated and don’t want to test must abide by strict social distancing for 14 days.
The agenda also contains a budget amendment to keep funding the airport COVID-19 testing incentive program for another month. The incentive program offers a $25 gift card for a local business to those who take a test at the airport or within three days of arrival. The program has been running since the summer. Recent data shows that 41% of passengers who arrived in Bethel between January and March 2021 agreed to take a test at the airport. If approved, additional funding for the program would cost the city $47,674 for the month of April.
City council is exploring options to meet in person again. They’re expected to vote on a resolution that would allow council members to convene in Bethel City Hall as long as numbers stay below the CDC’s “medium transmission” threshold. There would still not be any in-person public attendance at the meetings until the “low transmission” standard was met, which would mean that 50% of eligible residents would have been vaccinated and the positivity rate was lower than 3%. Currently, the Y-K Delta has a 3% positivity rate. As of last week, 53% of the region’s eligible population have received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 44% of the eligible population have received two doses.
The council also has an executive session scheduled for performance reviews for City Manager Pete Williams and City Attorney Elizabeth "Libby" Bakalar. Bakalar said that she wants her evaluation to take place in an open session to allow Bethel residents to get to know her and her work a bit better.