The Brenham City Council has extended Mayor Milton Tate’s local disaster declaration of a public health emergency due to COVID-19.
The council at its meeting this (Thursday) afternoon voted to approve a resolution revising and extending the declaration through April 3rd. Councilmembers Keith Herring and Clint Kolby worked together with Washington County Commissioners Candice Bullock and Kirk Hanath to draft the resolution. The declaration continues to align with the guidelines set by President Donald Trump, Governor Greg Abbott, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
An added amendment to the resolution allows for the closure of city facilities to the public, save for the Brenham Recycling Center and Citizens Collection Station. Through the amendment, all services, excluding emergency services, will be offered by appointment only. City Manager James Fisher encouraged the public to make all non-emergency requests for service from the city by phone or email, and asked that people using the recycling center and collection station to continue practicing social distancing.
The council also voted unanimously to approve an ordinance to temporarily modify the Hotel Occupancy Tax reporting and payment deadline. This will extend the deadlines for local hoteliers to file required monthly tax reports and payments of local Hotel Occupancy Taxes by 90 days. The extended filing and payment deadlines will only apply to the collection months of February, March, April, and May. The regular reporting and payment deadlines will apply to June and all collection months thereafter.
Keith Hankins, co-owner of Ant Street Inn and Main Street House, thanked the council for considering and approving the extension, saying the hotel industry has been “devastated across the globe”.
Hankins said with all of the hotels in the area having few or no guests staying in rooms, the amount of Hotel Occupancy Taxes received has “cratered”. He said, for Ant Street Inn and Main Street House, March and April are typically their two biggest months because of the Round Top Spring Antique Shows, weddings, and local festivals, and many times their success in March and April gets them through the summer.
Hankins said all of the local hotel and lodging owners and partners are doing everything possible to bring liquidity to this situation through working with bankers and the U.S. Small Business Administration. He said that federal assistance may take weeks or months to arrive, but this help from the city will be immediate and a difference maker for some.
During his administrative report, Fisher said the city understands the challenges facing the community, and wants to work with people in the community to get through this. He said staff are working closely with the city’s utility billing department to help people with their utility bills, and urged anyone who is unable to pay their bills to reach out to the city and see if they can work out a solution.
Fisher said, at the end of the day, the city is a business too, and right now the city is expecting a very long summer and a very concerning Fiscal Year 2020-21 budget.
Fisher said it might be tough going for a while, but he knows Brenham can get through this.
Fisher said he expected this to be the last in-person council meeting for some time, as the city’s Information Technology Department has been putting together a method for video conferencing.
Fisher concluded by saying the city is here to help the community move forward, and that help from the city is one call away at 979-337-7200.