Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, city and county officials have continued to work together, and said they feel that this partnership has aided in the low numbers of confirmed cases in the area.
“We've had the emergency operations center and monitoring status open since the early part of March. What everybody's not got to see that I have is we meet almost every day, both the judge and the mayor, and go over plans for the next thing coming,” said Perry County Emergency Manager Jerry Stacy, explaining that city and county officials have been meeting almost daily to go over new COVID-19 information and discuss how to implement it here.
“That partnership has made a huge difference,” said Stacy. “Just the overall teamwork in this has been really impressive, and I really believe the leadership has helped us get to where we're at with just the 18 (19) cases.”
Hazard City Manager Derrick Hall said he believes one of the most helpful things they've done in the partnership is maintain transparency with the public.
“Any time they're given information about a case, they'll sit down and do a Facebook Live and talk to the folks in the community and they don't try to hide anything on this. They're keeping the community informed, and I think that's one of the big things that's helped our community, that transparency of knowing instead of questioning each other,” said Hall.
The partnership, Stacy said, was useful not only during the pandemic, but also during the other issues that the city and county have faced this year.
“In February, we had the worst flooding we've had in 20 years, and then Easter night we were in the emergency operations center during that whole thing (the severe storms),” said Stacy. “We woke up on Monday, the day after Easter, and every house in Perry County, and business, was without power, every one of them 16,000 customers. We've been dealing with not just one thing in COVID-19, and that goes to what I think it is important to see.”
Stacy said both the city and county officials are still working together to provide services and take care of people.
“The majority of our people have been so understanding and so willing to work. The Mayor and I, and our staffs, we've all been on the same page,” said Perry County Judge-Executive Scott Alexander.
“What's good for the city is good for the county, and what's good for the county is good for the city,” said Hall. “Working together has allowed us to put all of our efforts combined toward the same goal. We work together to push that primary goal.”
Both the city and the county officials said that the partnership allowed them to continue working on projects and offer services to help the community during the pandemic.
“We've not had a ton of complaints. The pastors of the churches have been great to work with. I've not had one single call from any of the churches,” said Mobelini, explaining that churches, schools and businesses have all followed orders well during the pandemic. “I really think that's why we only have like 18 cases, everybody just done it.”
“I think the people of Perry County, by and large, have been supportive of everything we've tried to do. I've not had a lot of complaints at all about any of the things we've had to do to make things safer,” said Stacy.
“City Hall and Court house have been closed to public foot traffic, but the services have still been open,” said Alexander. The city and county officials, he said, spends hours doing meetings and updating people each week, especially during the pandemic.
“Our service to the people has actually been more hours than we did before,” said Alexander. The whole time, he said, both sides have been focused on being transparent and doing what is best for the public.
“The city has still functioned 100 percent. We've had to alter the function. All of our utilities have been up and working.”
The city workers, he said, had to alter plans for the safety of employees and customers, continue to wipe trucks down, use gallons of hand sanitizer and wear masks and PPE.
Currently, said Alexander, both City Hall and the Perry County Courthouse will remain closed to public foot traffic until mid or late June, but they will continue offering their services.
“I don't want to open before the election and then (have) an outbreak in the courthouse that could possibly shut down the election,” said Alexander. “We at least want to wait until after the election. Alexander said that, after the election, the city and county will then work together on a plan to open offices in their buildings.
Hazard Mayor Donald “Happy” Mobelini said both City Hall and the court house will open at same time, and he expects it to be in the middle or end of June.
Other projects that have continued progress throughout the pandemic have been the Dajcor and the SYKES/Intuit projects.
“We kept everything right on schedule,” said Alexander. “It's different, but we've still done it.”
“Before this pandemic, we felt like we had tons of momentum going, then we said we're going to get it back. When you think about it, we haven't lost that much momentum,” said Mobelini, stating that most projects have had to be altered, but haven't stopped.
Mobelini said he believes that the partnership has been helpful for both the city and county even before the pandemic.
“I think it's important, not even because of the pandemic, but before. We're in an economically depressed area, if we're all competing for the same dollars, we're butting heads with each other. I just think it goes a lot smoother (working together),” said Mobelini. “We don't care who gets the credit, as long as people in Perry County benefit.
“We can have the best time in the world playing against each other in sports, we can cheer like crazy against each other on Friday nights, but on Saturday morning, we're all Perry County,” he continued.
Mobelini and Alexander said that, in the coming months, they plan to start holding joint meetings between the city and county officials, and hope to post more videos together updating the community on the pandemic and projects.