Borough Facilities Close, Services Continue by Phone, E-mail

Mar 17, 2020

FNSB Mayor Bryce Ward explains how borough employees will continue providing services during COVID-19 shutdown
Credit Robyne / KUAC

The Fairbanks North Star Borough is closing off foot traffic and sending employees to work from home. Borough Mayor Bryce Ward met with reporters Tuesday to give the public a status report. 

The Borough is in it’s third day of closing down all it’s offices, parks and rec facilities. Mayor Bryce Ward says some services must continue, and the administration is trying to keep “some level of normalcy.”

“The goal is to try to continue to provide our services and continue to do what we’re here to do. We’re also weighing the public safety and the safety of our employees as part of our decision-making.”

As Alaska shifts to working from home, many borough employees are remaining far apart, but communicating over the phone or through software applications.

“We have made transition within the organization to a lot of virtual meetings using a Microsoft product, and that seems to be working well. The challenge we run into with some of our remote areas is the bandwidth issue.”

But not everyone can call it in. The Transportation Department is keeping all the busses running. Ward says they are examining ways to increase social distancing to protect drivers and passengers. 

Borough Mayor Bryce Ward, who is receiving chemotherapy treatments, is keeping "socially distant."
Credit Robyne / KUAC

“If we can’t put procedures in place to protect our employees and the public, we may have to consider shutting down those systems as well. It really has to do with the cleaning regimen – how quickly we can get back in there and clean those busses at what type of intervals, and then what type of safety procedures we are putting into place for those people who are operating those pieces of equipment.”

And the mayor himself may not have any more face-to-face meetings. He is in one of the COVID-19 vulnerable groups. He’s been getting chemotherapy for a diagnosis of lymphoma. In the conference room outside his office, he was across the room from newspaper, radio and TV reporters.

“I’m doing well, I’m still going through treatment and we’re just taking it one day at a time. We’ve been really aware of public meetings and engagements, so maintaining social distancing as we’re all doing here in the room. And limiting my time with public gatherings. That was what we were doing to begin with, so it seems like we’re taking that on as a community mission now for everyone’s health and safety.”

FNSB Chief of Staff Jim Williams disinfects a conference table after a meeting. "It's everyone's responsibility," he said.
Credit Robyne / KUAC