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On Thursday, March 12, 2020, St. Helens Mayor Rick Scholl declared a state of emergency in the City of St. Helens due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

The declaration takes effect immediately and will remain in effect until Thursday, April 9, 2020.

Scholl acknowledged that as of late Thursday, there had been no reported cases of the virus in Columbia County. The statewide cases now number 24.

"We are taking this step as a proactive approach," Scholl told The Chronicle. "I am not trying to send people in a fear factor, but I want people to know this is happening. The city is still running. We are still providing services."

Scholl said he is encouraging anyone with city business to call and make an appointment rather than going to city hall.

"And our city staff will get you in and out in an orderly fashion," he said.

Scholl said the State of Emergency declaration also gives the city opportunities for any additional resources that might be needed during such a health crisis.

Scholl said the emergency declaration has been made in order to protect the St. Helens community, City employees, and the city’s most vulnerable citizens from the impacts of the coronavirus and to minimize the effect on them.

Based on recent recommendations from the State of Oregon and Oregon public health experts, the City of St. Helens is implementing the following measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 in St. Helens:

Local City of St. Helens government buildings and offices will be closed to the general public. This includes St. Helens City Hall, the St. Helens Public Library, St. Helens Public Works offices, the St. Helens Police Department lobby, and the St. Helens Recreation Center. The St. Helens City Council and management team will evaluate continued office closures on a weekly basis.

St. Helens police officers and St. Helens public works crews will continue to respond to calls. Contact non-emergency dispatch at 503-397-1521. In the event of an emergency, call 9-1-1.

Until further notice, water services will not be disconnected for non-payment of a St. Helens utility bill.

St. Helens Municipal Court will be limited to previously scheduled court appearances. Court staff will directly contact anyone if a court appearance date is rescheduled. If you have any Municipal Court questions, you can call staff directly at 503-397-6272, option 2 or 503-366-8253.

St. Helens citizens are encouraged to use the City’s website payment portal option for making utility billing payments. Payments may also be made over the phone by calling 503-397-6272, option 1.

City staff will continue to work while offices remain closed to the public. If you have a question for a staff member, City staff are available through email and telephone. A staff directory can be found on the City’s website at https://www.ci.st-helens.or.us/contact.

Essential in-person meetings with City staff may be arranged by appointment. Please call or email the department that you need to meet with to arrange an appointment time.

The City is evaluating moving all previously scheduled City Council meetings to a virtual meeting platform. Details will be released at a later date regarding how those meetings will be held and how the public can virtually comment before or during the meeting(s). All other City boards and commission meetings scheduled over the next four weeks have been canceled.

All Recreation Program events have been canceled. The St. Helens Recreation Program will follow any St. Helens School District closures regarding Spring Break camp and the After-School Program. Should the School District close, these programs will also be closed. Refunds will be given for any event or program cancellations. Be sure to make prior arrangements for alternate childcare should these programs be canceled.

The City of St. Helens has created a webpage related to COVID-19. Updates regarding impacts to local government will be posted online at https://www.ci.st-helens.or.us/administration/page/covid-19.

If you have general questions about the coronavirus, more information can be found at:

As of late Thursday afternoon City of Clatskanie and the City of Rainier officials said they are monitoring the health crisis but have not declared a State of Emergency.

Follow this developing story here online and in the Wednesday print editions of The Chronicle.

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