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Waterloo declares civil emergency amid coronavirus outbreak

Waterloo declares civil emergency amid coronavirus outbreak

From the Coronavirus update Northeast Iowa series
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Mayor Quentin Hart

WATERLOO — The coronavirus crisis exposed shortfalls in the city’s legal ability to respond to a pandemic.

Waterloo City Council members voted unanimously Thursday to update the city’s ordinance giving broader powers to the mayor during a “civil emergency.”

“We’ve already seen a number of other communities move to this across the state,” said Mayor Quentin Hart, who immediately issued an emergency proclamation as the threat of a COVID-19 pandemic grows.

Several other mayors across the state had declared civil emergencies in their community, but Waterloo’s previous ordinance did not include a public health threat as a reason for declaring a civil emergency.

“We felt it was necessary to broaden the definition of a civil emergency in the city of Waterloo,” said City Clerk Kelley Felchle. “We’ve made some additions to include, obviously, a health crisis, a cyber attack, acts of terrorism, things that fit a little bit more with our modern times.”

The previous ordinance, adopted in 2009 following the record floods in 2008, was designed more for a natural disaster.

A civil emergency allows the mayor to take control of the police and fire departments, set curfews, limit gatherings or shut down gathering places, order evacuations, approve contracts for emergency repairs, purchase necessary goods and services quickly, and related actions.

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