As Oak Park Public Health Director Mike Charley prepares to leave the village mid-pandemic for a post in Skokie, the Oak Park village board passed another resolution declaring a public health emergency due to COVID-19 during its Nov. 2 meeting. The declaration will expire Feb. 16. 

“We’re asking for this ordinance so that in the next few months we can quickly as staff respond to those businesses that are being affected sometimes very quickly by decisions of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH),” Village Manager Cara Pavlicek told the board. 

The declaration gives the village manager emergency spending authority for purchases related to COVID-19 without prior village board approval, as well as provides the public health director the power to issue public health orders. After the expirations of the previous health emergency declarations, village board allowed Charley to continue issuing public health orders as needed.

Village staff recommended reinstating a public health emergency declaration to allow Pavlicek the legal ability to provide further support for local businesses in light of the state-mandated cessation of indoor restaurant and bar services in the area that went into effect Oct. 28. 

The extension on outdoor dining was set to end Oct. 31 but the village of Oak Park has decided to continue allowing restaurants to serve customers outside. Village staff is in the process of negotiating agreements to continue the rental of street barricades; the declaration allows the village to enter into those agreements, according to Pavlicek.

In an interview with Wednesday Journal, Pavlicek said the declaration also allows her to enter agreements within the business community to utilize private alleys and parking for outdoor dining.

“Secondarily, the reason we would like this to continue into February is that the public health department is continuing to work with the state of Illinois and the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] so that the village of Oak Park will be eligible to appoint dispensaries for vaccination,” Pavlicek told the board Nov. 2.

The declaration gives the village manager the ability to enter quickly into agreements for the use of space or other rentals needed for vaccination dispersal programs, according to Pavlicek.

Trustee Deno Andrews asked if the declaration had to have an expiration date by law and if village board had the capability to rescind the declaration after determining it was no longer needed.

“We seem to be renewing it every couple of months and COVID-19 is not going anywhere anytime soon,” said Andrews.

Pavlicek stated that the Feb. 16 expiration could be changed to a later date and the declaration itself could be reformatted into an ordinance. Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb suggested that, if an extension became needed, the village board could vote on it as part of the consent agenda.

“I like a deadline on it. I think it’s a good idea, so it doesn’t just run away from us,” said Abu-Taleb. 

Trustee Simone Boutet reiterated her previously stated beliefs that it is unnecessary to give the village manager the power to freely spend money and enter into agreements as related to COVID-19.

“I’m not sure why it’s necessary because we kind of know what we need to buy,” said Boutet, who added she understood that emergency spending was needed in part for street barricades for safe outdoor dining. 

Despite her concerns, Boutet voted in favor of the declaration. The resolution declaring a public health emergency passed unanimously. Charley’s departure was neither discussed nor mentioned in passing by the village board.

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