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City of Austin extends closure of city facilities

The City of Austin has issued an indefinite extension to the closure of city facilities to the public until further notice.

In a letter to the Herald, City Administrator Craig Clark said the decision was the result of continuing instances of individuals being impacted by COVID-19.

“Adjusting to spending time at home, practicing social distancing, utilization of social media to keep a connection and dealing with the impacts on our economy are all the result of dealing with a new normal,” he said.

Despite the closure, Clark said city services will be maintained in a way “to balance safety of the public and employees while providing reasonable access.”

City departments will be affected as follows:

Austin Police Department

507-434-9400 and 911 remain the contact numbers. There is limited access to the Mower County Law Enforcement Center lobby. Please use the phone in the outer entryway to contact a dispatcher. All non-mandated lobby services are discontinued, including fingerprinting. Use the grey box labeled “Mower County” in the outer entry way to submit documents to the Police Department.

Austin Fire Department – 507-433-3405

The Fire Station is closed. No burn permits will be issued to the public.  There will be no commercial building inspections. There will be a continuation of complaint-based life, health and safety inspections. Smoke and carbon monoxide installations will continue.

Public Works   Department – 507-437-9950

Primary contacts are April Grabau (agrabau@ci.austin.mn.us), Erica Nelson (erican@ci.austin.mn.us) and Steven Lang (slang@ci.austin.mn.us or 507-437-9949). City Hall is closed to the public.

• Engineering Office – 507-437-9950, contact is Mitch Wenum (mitchw@ci.austin.mn.us or 507-437-9945). The city is still accepting bids for projects related to summer construction. Monitoring recommended protocols and planning for impacts to summer construction will continue. Employees are limiting contact with social distancing.

• Building, Planning, Zoning and Rental – 507-437-9950, contacts are Holly Wallace (hollyw@ci.austin.mn.us or 507-437-9952) and Fred Husemoller (fredh@ci.austin.mn.us or 507-437-9954). Limited contact and social distancing. Permit request and issuance will work as follows:

• Building – Permit applications and plans shall be submitted via email to the Building Department at erican@ci.austin.mn.us for review and processing. Permit fees shall be calculated and you will receive a call to arrange for payment. If submitted via mail, they will be processed as normal with a two-day delay.

• Inspections and other guidance: Inspection requests shall be made by email or telephone and may be accommodated as reasonably possible. Photos, videos and other means of technology may be utilized for inspection at the discretion of the building official.

• Rental and Zoning: Scheduled inspections will be temporarily suspended. Complaint inspections will be conducted as needed for unsafe, unsanitary and life-threatening conditions only. Re-inspections may be made via photos, video and other means of technology at the discretion of the inspector.

• Planning: Planning Commission meetings will be held as needed.

• Street Department – 507-434-0067. The Street Department is closed to the public; there is a note on the door to drop deliveries inside. There will be somewhat normal operations with employees limiting contact with social distancing.

• Sewer Department – 507-434-0067. There will be limited sewer main cleaning in residential areas and sump pump inspections will be postponed to a later date. There will be somewhat normal operations with employees limiting contact with social distancing.

• Wastewater Treatment Plant – 507-437-7701. The WWTP is closed to the public; a note on the door says to drop deliveries inside. There will be somewhat normal operations with employees limiting contact with social distancing.

• Riverside and Packer Arenas are closed to the public.

• Transfer Station – 507-437-4606. The transfer station is closed to the public for drop-offs, but open for commercial haulers.

• Airport – 507-433-1813. The airport will have somewhat normal operations, though things are slow with limits to flight traffic and people movement

Clerk’s Office –507-437-9940

Business licensing applications and requests can be processed electronically. Assessment search requests can be e-mailed or submitted off the City website. Mail all payments or make arrangements via phone at 437-9940. Call 437-9940 with any questions.

Austin Public Library – 507-433-2391

The library is closed to the public, but calls can be made 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Monday through Friday. Online reference questions can be found at www.austinpubliclibrary.org. Additional on-line services include ebooks, audiobooks, etc. All due dates on materials will be extended and no fines will be accrued during closures.

Parks and Recreation – 507-433-1881

Closed facilities include the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center’s Interpretive Building and Ruby Rupner Auditorium, Packer and Riverside Arenas, Sola Fide Observatory, Izaak Walton Cabin and Park restroom. All programming is canceled. Trimming and removing trees from boulevards, parks, and other city properties will continue. The office is open for calls 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Human Resources – 507-437-9942

The HR office is closed to the public, but available by phone and email. There are no open positions at this time; however, the city’s general application is accessible on the city’s website. The seasonal/temporary application process is currently suspended.

“We look forward to a brighter time when the pandemic is behind us, but I take resolve from the city staff who are ready to continue our roles to serve the public during this trying time,” Clark said. “Austin is a generous community and we know practicing the proper safety measures and helping those in need is something we’ll rise to the challenge of as we’ve made a hallmark of supporting each other.”