Worthington City Council has given City Manager Matt Greeson greater authority and money to address the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic on a local basis.

In a 6-0 vote March 16, council approved emergency legislation to increase Greeson’s contingency funds by $100,000 and authorized the expenditure of another $100,000 to help pay employees affected by facility closures.

Also, council members cleaned up the city code for proclaiming a state of emergency to include the word pandemic and reinforce Columbus Public Health’s authority in the city of Worthington.

“The third thing it did was it authorized me to waive personnel rules during a public-health emergency,” Greeson said.

By its approval as an emergency measure, the legislation goes immediately into effect.

A minimum of six votes was required for passage; council member Beth Kowalczyk was absent.

City spokesperson Anne Brown said part of the reason for the emergency legislation is council will meet again until April 6, making it difficult to quickly convene and respond to the rapidly evolving health crisis.

The city and its partners already have taken several precautions regarding the spread of COVID-19, such as closing city offices, the Worthington Community Center and the Griswold Center, and canceling activities, such the Worthington Farmers Market.

Council member Scott Myers said he wanted to proceed with caution so the “crisis of the situation does not justify things that later can be used to support an erosion of otherwise well-recognized rights.”

“I understand, fully understand, that we need to take care of our employees,” Myers said. “We need to have a fund of money in case something comes up.

“I just want to make very, very certain that this crisis does not cause an erosion of normal safeguards that we have always adhered to.”

When Columbus Public Health officials believe the virus has abated, the additional powers given to Greeson essentially will be rescinded, Greeson said.