Carmel to halt water disconnections, may add backup ambulances


With the spread of the COVID-19 disease leading to facility closures, event cancelations and work-from-home mandates throughout the state, Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard updated the city council March 16 on steps his administration has taken in recent days to prevent the disease from spreading.

Some city services have come to a halt, such as community events planned for the coming weeks, while others, such as public safety, could be expanded.

Carmel leaders, like those throughout the nation, are scrambling to adjust to a constantly evolving environment. For example, on the day of the council meeting Gov. Eric Holcomb directed public gatherings to not exceed 50 people, but later the same day President Donald Trump advised gatherings of no more than 10 people. The March 16 Carmel City Council meeting exceeded the 10 participant limit – barely.

“We don’t want the economy to entirely stop, yet we want to protect our employees and people living in Carmel from the virus as well,” Brainard said.

The following describes how some city departments and services have been affected by the new coronavirus pandemic:

Carmel Utilities

Many Carmel Utilities employees are working from home, but the city plans to keep enough workers on site to ensure water and sewer service continues to be provided safely.

Brainard said the city has halted water disconnections for nonpayment to ease the burden for residents who may face financial struggles because of the pandemic. The city plans to help “until they get back on their feet.”

“It doesn’t mean we forgive the bill,” Brainard said after the meeting. “We’re giving people time. We’re not going to disconnect anybody.”

Carmel Fire Dept.

Carmel firefighters, who work at stations in 24 hours shifts, are practicing social distancing and taking extra protective equipment on emergency runs. City officials considered changing the shift schedule to reduce potential exposure but decided against the idea.

“Most of our stations have separate bedrooms. We looked at going to 12-hour shifts so they wouldn’t have to sleep there,” Brainard said. “We’ve chosen not to do that for the time being.”

The city is also considering putting two backup ambulances it already owns into service. Brainard said it would be a “substantial financial burden” to staff the additional ambulances but expects the city would eventually be reimbursed by the federal government.

Carmel Police Dept.

Brainard said most civilian duties are being handled by employees working at home. Only one counter at the police station is open to the public, and paperwork is not being passed through it. Most non-essential public services, such as fingerprinting, are not being offered during the outbreak.

CPD’s school resource officers have been reassigned to other duties during the closure of Carmel Clay Schools. The earliest the schools could reopen is April 13.

Golf course

Food and beverage service has been shut down at Brookshire Golf Club, but golfers who walk the course may play.

The pro shop is open, but Brainard said it may not be for long.

“We don’t know if the pro shop will remain open at this point, probably not, but as of today it’s still open,” he said.

Room rentals canceled

Groups often reserve rooms at City Hall or other city facilities, but all reservations from groups not directly associated with the city have been canceled until further notice.