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Havre de Grace mayor declares local state of emergency, developing contingency plan for city’s May 5 election

A local state of emergency in the city of Havre de Grace will go into effect at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 1, giving the Mayor William T. Martin “legal authority and flexibility to make decisions necessary to protect not only the health and safety of our community, but also to ensure the proper continuity of government operations," during the coronavirus pandemic.

The mayor and staff are also developing a contingency plan for the 2020 city election, scheduled for May 5.

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“This plan will look at possible alternatives to our traditional polling method and consider a postponement of the 2020 city election. I have instructed the team to give me their recommendations by mid-April, at which time I will submit this plan to the City Council for their review and approval. A decision regarding the city election will be announced to the public no later than April 21, 2020,” the mayor wrote on the city’s website in a post announcing the state of emergency.

Havre de Grace’s mayor and City Council will have a public hearing April 20 to receive comment on an amendment to the city charter that would allow the mayor to authorize executive orders that would temporarily suspend certain deadlines and time requirements in the charter.

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Such an amendment would allow the mayor to postpone the election, which the charter says is to be held the first Tuesday of May each year.

The hearing, scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., would be livestreamed online and a call-in number would be provided for those wishing to comment on the proposed amendment. The public will not be able to observe the meeting in person. The city will issue additional information on how to access the live stream and call in prior to April 20.

Four candidates are running for three open seats on the Havre de Grace council, including challenger Richard Wehner Sr. and incumbents Council President David Glenn, Councilwoman Casi Boyer and Councilman Jim Ringsaker. A measure to amend the city charter to allow the mayoral term be extended from two years to three, starting with the 2021 election, will also be on the ballot.

Gov. Larry Hogan also issued an executive order enabling municipalities to postpone elections if necessary.

Martin also announced the boardwalk promenade along the Susquehanna River will now have one-way traffic with pedestrians entering the promenade from the City Yacht Basin, in accordance with social distancing guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some folks enjoy a stroll along the Havre de Grace Promenade recently. The mayor the promenade now have one-way traffic with pedestrians entering from the City Yacht Basin, in accordance with social distancing guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some folks enjoy a stroll along the Havre de Grace Promenade recently. The mayor the promenade now have one-way traffic with pedestrians entering from the City Yacht Basin, in accordance with social distancing guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.(Matt Button / The Aegis/Baltimore Sun Media)

The city has canceled its April 13 budget work session, he wrote, and an April 11 dumpster day event has also been canceled.

The mayor's executive order declaring a local state of emergency also addresses some items outlined in the governor's stay-at-home order issued Monday.

Public parks in Havre de Grace will remain open for limited purposes such as walking, hiking, running and biking, but only in gatherings of less than 10 while social distancing is being practiced.

No one shall use playground equipment in city parks while the order is in effect, however.

Recreational boating is also no longer allowed in the city, in accordance with the governor's order. Commercial fishing is deemed essential and may continue, and limited hunting and recreational fishing and crabbing for sustenance can continue, so long as social distancing is adhered to strictly, the order states.

Martin's order also encourages resident to continue supporting local restaurants and bars which provide drive-through, pickup or delivery services, which remain open.

Nonprofit organizations in the city that provide essential services to low-income individuals — homeless shelters, food banks, soup kitchens and those that provide food to soup kitchens — may continue to do so as long as gatherings are less than 10 people and social distancing is practiced, the order states.

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