City of Nogales buildings will remain closed to the public for another month after the mayor and council voted on Wednesday to keep them closed at least until the council’s next regular meeting, Nov. 4.

The move comes as public schools prepare to reopen for in-person learning in coming weeks and several weeks after the county reached state benchmarks to reopen businesses with COVID-19 precautions in place.

Even so, Acting City Manager John Kissinger told council members that he recommended keeping the public out of city buildings, citing what he called a rise in cases and hospitalizations related to COVID-19, as well as the start of flu season. Santa Cruz County reported just 27 new cases and two hospitalizations related to COVID-19 in the past week, in line with the rate of new cases and hospitalizations throughout September.

Kissinger added that all the city departments have “been able to provide very good service to our constituents” while their doors have been closed. He pledged to keep bringing up the possibility of reopening at future council meetings, even though council action isn’t needed for city administrators to open or close the buildings to the public.

Also at the Oct. 7 meeting, the council voted to reopen city tennis courts, subject to safety guidelines.

The guidelines include requiring users to complete a participation form at the parks and recreation department office, limiting use to two people per court and prohibiting any spectators in the courts during play and practice.

The council twice rejected proposals from Councilman Jorge Maldonado last month that would have reopened Fleischer Park baseball fields and the Turley soccer field, in addition to the tennis courts.

Council to interview three interim manager candidates

The Nogales City Council is set to interview three candidates for the interim city manager job on Tuesday, Oct. 13.

According to an agenda posted to the city’s website, the mayor and council members will start with a 9 a.m. interview with Charlie Cassens, former manager of Lake Havasu City, Ariz. At 10:30 a.m. they’ll meet Steve Pauken, a former manager of Bisbee and Winslow, Ariz. Then at 1 p.m., they’ll interview Eric Duthie, a Douglas native who was the manager of Tusayan, Ariz. until 2019 and who served as the interim manager of Huachuca City, Ariz. earlier this year.

An interview with Greg Lucero, a South32 mining executive and former Santa Cruz County manager, was also on the council’s original agenda for the meeting. But Lucero’s name was removed from the schedule in a revised agenda.

At a meeting last month, the mayor and council voted to move ahead with a contract to employ an interim city manager through Interim Public Management, an Arizona firm that places temporary managers at local governments around the state. It’s not clear how long the interim manager would stay at the city, but council members talked about a contract lasting between three and six month at the Sept. 9 meeting.

The search for an interim manager comes after council members aborted plans to quickly hire a city manager with local ties; that plan fell apart in August after the council couldn’t identify many interested candidates.

The agenda for Tuesday’s meeting doesn’t include any potential action items, but does include an opportunity to schedule another special meeting to appoint an interim manager.

The city manager job has been unfilled for months, following the council’s split with former manager Eddie Johnson in May. Since then, Deputy City Manager John Kissinger has been filling in and cashing in with a temporary pay raise to go along with his acting city manager designation. According to council documents, Kissinger isn’t supposed to serve in the acting role, which he started on June 3, for more than six months.

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