Plenty of questions still need to be answered before Pullman and its businesses can chart out a plan to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, city leaders said Tuesday.
City Councilor Brandon Chapman held an online town hall on Zoom Tuesday evening to talk about the future of the city and the business community.
Local sales tax will take a hit with non-essential businesses closed in the city, but Pullman Finance Director Mike Urban said the city won’t know how much revenue was lost in March for another month.
Councilor Dan Records said Pullman is working to pull back on non-essential expenses in order to save money. He said the city’s focus right now is preserving its essential services, such as police, fire and public works.
“If we have to make cuts to those services, I think our city starts to fall apart,” he said.
As struggling local businesses look to the city to provide some assistance during the recovery process, city leaders say there are state restrictions that limit how much support the city can offer.
For example, Records said he has heard people suggest Pullman Transit be used to deliver goods to people’s homes, especially those who may be unable or apprehensive about driving to local stores.
He is unsure where the funding for such a service would come from, or if it would be allowable under state rules. He said it might be inappropriate because it may cause the city to compete with businesses for this service.
Resident Karl Johanson said during the town hall there is precedent for such a delivery service. He said in the past, transit drivers were tasked with picking up prescriptions in Clarkston and delivering them to people in Pomeroy. Johanson said there was federal and state money available for this service.
Records also said he has heard people suggest businesses that eventually reopen should have thermometers on hand to do temperature checks of customers. He said there could be potential for the city to stock up on these thermometers in order to provide them to businesses.
Records said he is interested in hearing more feedback from the public about what businesses need moving forward.
Jonny Fisher, a local dentist, said during the town hall that Gov. Jay Inslee should not have shut businesses down in places like Pullman, which he says is a low-risk area for COVID-19. He said now would be an appropriate time for businesses to reopen since people understand the importance of washing hands and avoiding standing close to others.
Records warned the number of confirmed cases in Whitman County, currently at 15, likely does not accurately reflect how many actual cases there are.
“Without knowledge of how many asymptomatic carriers we have out there, it is a bit of a guessing game,” Records said.
Pullman is planning to hold a city council meeting online April 28. Chapman, at the end of Tuesday’s town hall, urged everyone to help each other during this unprecedented time.
“We will rise again, and we’re going to be more Pullman proud than ever,” he said.
Anthony Kuipers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.