The city of Hastings is developing a plan to address business continuity and identifying essential personnel in case operations are hampered by the presence of the new coronavirus.

Utility Manager Kevin Johnson, City Administrator Dave Ptak and Mayor Corey Stutte discussed the strategy going into that plan during the Hastings Utility Board meeting on Thursday.

“The utility department specifically, we are building it department by department,” Johnson said.

Ptak said city department heads met Tuesday at Hastings Utilities to discuss planning. That meeting included worksheets for department heads to identify central functions as well as functional capabilities.

“We need to identify who is absolutely necessary as far as to do what it is that we do so we can plan accordingly,” he said. “It would be good to have in place regardless of whether it was the coronavirus or some natural disaster like a tornado or whatever else. We just need to have that in place as far as being able to deal with that.”

Those worksheets were due at the end of the day Friday.

“We’ll analyze those, put them together and come up with an overall plan at that point in time,” Ptak said. “It has many authors, and that’s the best way to do it because not everybody understands what everybody does.”

Stutte promoted the South Heartland District Health Department, which has a lot of information on its website.

“I’d encourage business partners, customers of Hastings Utilities to go out to their website if they are interested in business continuity planning,” he said. “There are a lot of resources that are available.”

He said the community assembled a great group of local stakeholders.

“They’ve done a good job internally of being able to look at the situation and figure out what this looks like and really figuring out what the high-priority departments are,” he said.

Ptak sent an email Wednesday to all city staff with a letter from James Robb, a high school classmate of Ptak who is a Fellow of the College of American Pathologists. Robb was one of the first molecular virologists in the world to work on coronaviruses in the 1970s, and has contacts in the medical community as a result of his position.

“This is his take on what we should be thinking about and how to look at it,” he said.

The email focused on good hygiene.

Utility Board Chairman Bill Hitesman thanked city staff members for their work on planning.

“I also appreciate the fact that you are reacting to this,” he said. “I don’t think it’s really an overreaction on things like that.”

Johnson said the city — including Kevin Schawang, the city’s director of information technology — still is working on a plan to allow self-quarantined employees to work from home if needed, depending on the employee’s duties.

“We’re going to treat this just like we would have a snow day and someone couldn’t come to work,” Ptak said. “In order to get paid they have to take leave. So that’s the way we are approaching it now.”

If employees have leave they need to use it.

“I hope that doesn’t sound harsh, but that’s exactly the way we handle things,” Ptak said. “That may change based upon a lot of the changes mandated by someone well above my pay grade.”

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