By Ralph Echtinaw
The coronavirus pandemic has forced St. Louis city officials and employees to stagger shifts and work from home in many cases to minimize the chance for infection.
Beginning this week, Police Chief Richard J. Ramereiz Jr. will work in the office on Mondays, Tuesdays and every other Friday (working from home the rest of the time).
Sgt. Kristi Forshee will be in the office Wednesdays, Thursdays and every other Friday.
Clerk Amy Velazco will be in the office on Mondays and Thursdays. (Anyone with questions on pistol purchases or sex offender registry updates/verifications are asked to call when Velazco is in the office.
Dori Foster, who handles code enforcement and permits, and Building Inspector Paul Erskine are working from home and will only be in the office as needed.
Non-essential activities requiring a permit have been suspended for the duration of the governor’s stay-at-home order.
“We have a daily routine implemented at the St. Louis PD to clean and sanitize our office, vehicles and equipment,” Ramereiz said via email. “Every day when our officers and staff arrive, we wipe down and sanitize our office space. Each employee is responsible for their work environment. The officers wipe down and sanitize their patrol cars at the start of each shift and at the end of each shift. The officers are also required to wipe down and sanitize the patrol car after any person has been transported.
“Each officer has been issued a cloth face mask to wear for general contacts when taking complaints. Each officer has also been issued an N95 mask to use if they are required to have contact with a person or place that has an illness of any kind, person in quarantine or known COVID-19 positive case. We have always issued nitrile gloves to our officers. Each patrol car is supplied with hand sanitizer as well as each area of our office.
“Our officers have taken complaints by phone to limit person-to-person contact when possible. We have even taken complaints by email where it is necessary. If a situation requires the officer to respond in person, all efforts are made to stay outside when possible. All efforts are made to not have any contact unless necessary.”
City Manager Kurt Giles explains the rest of the city’s staffing changes: “We’ve reduced the number of staff on-site at the police department and city offices from around 12 normally to only four or five at one time.
“Utility billing functions are being done during the first half of the week along with payroll. Accounts payable functions are taking placing during the send half of the week. We have a number of employees working from home and coming into the office after-hours if necessary.
“We have deferred bringing any seasonal employees in so as not to have more people potentially exposing each other to the coronavirus. The Water/Wastewater, Public Works and Electric Departments have split into two crews, each working staggered shifts alternating with two and three 10-hour shifts each week.
“We’ve had a disinfection service company treat work areas along with extra cleaning and disinfection efforts in work spaces and vehicles.”
Although residents can’t get inside city hall just now, they can still pay their monthly city bills by mail or by using the drop box outside the main entrance. Just write a check and slip it into the envelopes provided at the drop box and include the lower third of your bill.
There is also a pay-by-credit-card option, but that will cost you more. This reporter decided to use the drop box after learning that paying by credit card would cost an additional $4.50.