March 20: Municipal Law Coronavirus Update
Public Construction Projects
According to Governor Wolf’s March 19 Order, any Building Construction; Highway, Street or Bridge Construction; Utility Subsystem Construction; Land Subdivision; Other Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction should have ceased as of 8 pm last evening. Enforcement will supposedly begin at 12:01 am on March 21. However, leasing of construction machinery may continue. Most transport services may continue. Utility systems may also continue to operate. Therefore, critical maintenance and repair (including rental of equipment for projects) should be allowed to continue. Public works departments can perform maintenance work and make critical repairs to water and sewer systems. Roadway maintenance and repair is not specifically listed, but we believe road crews can (and should) make critical repairs to maintain safe highways.
Trash hauling and collection is allowed to continue. You may want to contact your respective carrier about collection schedules. As far as we know, they intend to continue with business as usual as long as they have workers to man the trucks.
Local Emergency Declarations
Pennsylvania’s Emergency Management Act (the “Act”) allows a local governing body to declare a local disaster emergency upon finding a disaster has occurred or is imminent. The local governing body may also authorize a manager or other chief executive of the local government to declare a local disaster emergency subject to ratification by the governing body. The local disaster emergency proclamation can be made for up to seven (7) days at a time. A local disaster emergency proclamation does several things to aid municipal staff to respond to an emergency:
- Municipalities have the power to enter into contracts and incur obligations necessary to disaster emergency management, response and recovery.
- Bidding requirements for supplies and services needed to respond to the disaster are suspended.
The proclamation should be given prompt and general publicity but there is no specific advertising requirement. Newspaper advertising is not necessary. Posting notice on your website and social media site as well as at the municipal building will be adequate.
Governing Boards should consider this action, especially given the challenges of the holding public meetings for official action on procurement. The proclamation can be made in an emergency meeting, so long as minutes are recorded to be subsequently ratified in a public meeting.
Price-Gouging for Emergency Supplies
On March 6, 2020, Attorney General Shapiro alerted Pennsylvania consumers and businesses about price gouging protections under Governor Wolf’s COVID-19 disaster declaration for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In addition, the Office of Attorney General has created a specialized resource (email@example.com) for consumers to email and report malfeasance.
Governor Wolf’s declaration triggered protections under state law against price gouging for consumers and businesses. Under rules governing a disaster emergency, companies and vendors are prohibited from charging a price for consumer goods or services that exceeds 20 percent of the average price to which those goods or services were sold for in the 7 days preceding the date of declaration.
Please feel free to call or email Andy Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Doug Myers (email@example.com) if you have any questions about these matters. Our office is closed, but our email and cell phones are working!