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Marshall, Texas: City leaders prepare for reopening amid budget constraints

Coronavirus

MARSHALL, Texas (KTAL/KMSS) – As the City of Marshall begins to gear up for the next phase of reopening, city leaders want to make citizens aware that they are doing everything they can to assure their safety.

When deciding on when to reopen city services to their pre COVID-19 state, the City of Marshall plans to use a combination of things, including a city advisory committee comprised of management personnel, the Governor’s Orders, local COVID-19 statistics, and budgetary considerations.

The committee charged with making the decision on whether more cuts will base their decisions on the budgetary concerns, and meets periodically to evaluate reopening the full complement of city services.

As things begin to open up, the City is making plans to keep things as safe for citizens as possible.

Stormy Nickerson, Marshall’s communications coordinator, said the city is using some of the money granted through the federal CARES Act for COVID-relief to purchase and install hand-sanitizing stations at the entrances of all city buildings.

That measure will add to the safety of citizens and employees who enter and exit facilities, she said, adding that a plan is in place to open Municipal Court soon.

Currently, the city is open, but on an altered basis. Tourism employees are still furloughed, but essential employees are working with safety measures in place.

For example, people can and are urged to pay their water bills online, but there is a drive through that also accepts payments.

However, those who have business that requires entering the building – such as obtaining a building permit – can’t just walk in, but must make an appointment with the necessary department.

Nickerson said Marshall’s libraries are open and offering curbside pickup, and a Summer Reading Program is being developed and will be announced on the library’s website and Facebook pages.

But city parks, which are open for walking trails and, since May 31st, sports fields, still cannot use playground equipment. She said of the 177 COVID-19 cases reported in Marshall, eight of them were youths ages 0-19, Nickerson said.

She said it’s difficult to know where these cases came from, and out of an abundance of caution, playground equipment in the parks has not been opened, as it’s difficult to sanitize.

In the same vein, Nickerson said that 126 of the 177 cases reported to date were from nursing homes, but it is unknown how many of those cases are residents and how many are employees, who might not live within Marshall’s city limits, though counted as Marshall cases.

She said deducting the 126 cases from the 177 total leaves around 50 of those cases within Marshall.

“We have to be vigilant,” Nickerson said, adding Marshall’s 177 cases to Harrison County’s 72 comes to a total of 249 positive COVID-19 cases, making Harrison County No. 3 in northeast Texas.

In addition to heading the numbers, Nickerson said city leaders are keeping a close watch on the city’s finances, as they don’t know what kinds of constraints may be necessary.

In April, when the city announced furloughs, leaders were careful to point out that they made the decision concerning their response in protecting the pandemic for the citizens within budgetary considerations.

Assuming citizens didn’t want the shortfall passed onto them through tax increases, city leaders made adjustments as early as possible to try to mitigate the impact of lost sales tax revenue.

The focus for the furloughs was mainly in areas that are destination-based, as opposed to safety services and utility operations based on the current circumstances.

“We are in a recession, which will be announced formally at the end of the month, after the second quarter,” according to a news release issued by the city Wednesday.  

The release said estimates in the drop of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for this second quarter are ranging from 35 to 53 percent. This drop in the GDP will impact sales tax revenues, one of the city’s primary sources of income for providing services on almost every level.

“We won’t know how severe an impact it will have until we receive our latest sales tax report, which we anticipate in the next few weeks,” the release said.

There is an approximate two-month delay between what happens at the cash registers in Marshall and when it shows up at City Hall, city leaders say. A prompt announcement will be made by the city on decisions to change the status of building openings or city services.

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