Itemizer-Observer

INDEPENDENCE — The city of Independence is preparing to reopen.

“Things are moving forward,” Tom Pessemier, city manager, told city council at their May 12 meeting.  “We’ll see where Polk County fits into that. We are looking to see what we can do around the city to kind of reopen things as well.”

City Hall was closed to the public at the end of March, though some employees continued to work in the building, while others worked remotely.

“We’re probably going to slowly undo things,” he said. “Businesses getting open is the primary thing right now and I think — you don’t want to open up too much, too quick.”

He said they are looking at opening the second floor of city hall to the public, so people can access the window at the police station as well as pay bills in the finance department.

“Obviously, we’re going to do things safe and we’re going to do things that make sense,” Pessemier said. “We’re trying to figure out the library. That’s a difficult thing to open, and we’re working with all the other libraries in the cooperative to figure out ways to make that happen.”

They’re also figuring out how to transition from almost exclusively teleworking to “getting it to be safe for people to come in, in limited numbers and move forward. I know we have a lot of people who enjoy working at home, but also enjoy working in the office. We’ll see what we can come up with that’s safe, that meets the governor’s orders.”

Group gatherings in Oregon have been canceled through September.

“Obviously, that impacts a lot of events,” Pessemier said. “That’s not a huge surprise and the Independence Days committee is working on trying to find an alternative celebration that meets the governor’s orders. They know there aren’t going to be any large groups, but they are looking at ways to make sure that people have at least some opportunity to celebrate Independence Days, so they’re looking at small neighborhood-type of items where social distancing can happen.”

Fireworks and activities have been postponed, but the city made an initial payment for the fireworks to use in a celebration when things open up.

“That’s a real — bummer is the best word I can think of, but at the same time we want to be safe and respect the governor and her orders,” Pessemier said.

He did have some good news, though.

“Last council I announced that the summer series had been canceled as well, but tonight I am happy to announce that we’ve kind of replaced that with drive-in movies in the soccer fields at Deann Drive,” Pessemier said. “We have entered into an agreement with a company to basically provide a hosted event. They bring all the equipment. They set up everything and run the event including setting up the radio station that plays through the stereo in the car.”

The Independence Drive-In Movie Series will be Thursday evenings from June 11 through July 9. Pacific Power and Capitol Auto Group are sponsoring the events.

“I know the concert series is something that people really enjoy, but we’re hoping the movies will be enjoyed by a lot of residents as well and that we can maybe continue that on in the future as well,” Pessemier said.

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