Bert Cottle

Wasilla Mayor Bert Cottle

WASILLA — The city of Wasilla is slowly reopening nonessential businesses, following Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s recent announcement detailing phase two of his Reopen Alaska Responsibly Plan aiming to safely mitigate COVID-19 infection rates and resume economic activity.

Wasilla mayor Bert Cottle said all their decisions are following the lead from the state and they’ll adjust according to updates over the remaining phases.

“We’re doing exactly what the government is doing,” Cottle said.

There are a total of five phases outlined in the state’s general guidelines. Mandates and restrictions are intended to slowly loosen over time.

Under the current phase two guidelines, most nonessential establishments will reopen with safeguards.

Businesses that have remained open amid phase one are allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity. Bars, gyms, theatres and libraries have been closed during phase one but they can now reopen at 25 percent capacity.

Another addition to phase two includes social and religious gatherings, stating that the maximum capacity for public assemblies has increased to 50 people.

Wasilla City Hall is now open during its regular business hours and they’re allowing 25 percent capacity for walk-ins.

Public meetings like city council, board, and commission meetings are not canceled unless previously announced otherwise. The number of people permitted to attend the council chambers will be limited, and people are encouraged to provide their testimonies in writing or telephonically to help prevent further spread of the coronavirus.

Wasilla parks remained open during phase one, but city officials shut down the playgrounds. Playground equipment reopened under phase two, and local families can access the various sites again.

As of now, the Menard Sports Center is still closed to the public, but local groups are still able to arrange socially distant meetings inside the center. The city also announced they will be offering outdoor activities in the meantime.

Cottle said it’s not feasible to open the entire center at this point. He said they get up to 400 people at the library on a normal day.

The Wasilla Library is maintaining its drive-thru model at this time. The Wasilla Museum and Visitor Center will remain closed until further notice.

“Everyones following the guidelines,” Cottle said.

Cottle said the city’s annual air show is still on this June. He said they can still hold that event in a socially distant manner, but they had to cancel a much larger annual tradition in Wasilla, the Independence Day Parade that’s known to pull in thousands of spectators each year.

“The parade is a whole other ball game,” Cottle said.

Cottle said they’re waiting for Dunleavy’s phase three announcement before making any other plans for future events.

“It’s too early to tell,” Cottle said.

Cottle said the whole idea of slowly reopening businesses is to avoid further spread and the possibility of backtracking and re-tightening social distancing measures.

“Everybody’s all excited about opening…What would be worse if we went back to phase one,” Cottle said. “We’re gonna make it through it. We just gotta be patient. Follow the guidelines for phase one and two, and phase three will be easier.”

For more information, call Wasilla City Hall at 907-373-9050 or visit cityofwasilla.com.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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