BROOKVILLE – In what was certainly a first for the city of Brookville held a meeting of its City Council, however no one was present in council chambers at the Brookville Municipal Building on Sycamore Street.
The April 7 meeting was held via an on-line platform, with members and city staff members who usually at the meetings tuned in remotely. This was due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has Ohioans under a state mandated “Stay-at-Home” order.
City Manager Sonja Keaton reported that since March 16 the Municipal Building has been locked to the public. Other city buildings are closed as well.
Keaton reported that the city is operating with “a small and efficient workforce appropriate for the city’s size and needs, and we need to protect them,” she said in her report.
She added that all departments have been segregated and employees are observing social distancing while at work.
Notices are placed on the city’s Web site and doors into the locked buildings having contact information for city residents.
Gates into Golden Gate Park and Westbrook Park are locked to alleviate the number of people and vehicles congregating in the parks. However, people can walk, run or bike in the parks if they maintain a six-foot distance from other people.
Playgrounds as well as basketball and tennis courts at the parks are taped off and signs posted noting they are closed.
Keaton noted that the date for filing municipal income taxes has been changed to July 15, the same as filing for state and federal income taxes.
With businesses closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak Keaton noted that income tax receipts into the city will decrease.
“We will experience a sharp decline in income tax receipts,” she said.
She further noted that city officials will “strictly monitor” the 2020 budget.
“All expenditures, especially those that operate off income tax dollars will be scrutinized,” she said.
Keaton noted that due to the virus outbreak disconnections of public water service is not permitted, and the city has filed for federal funds for costs associated with emergency protective measures, this following President Donald Trump’s declaration of a federal emergency on March 13.
She noted, “we are documenting all costs associated with COVID-19.”
Keaton said that they city was informed by Five Rivers Metroparks that a distribution of tree seedlings to those affected by the May 27, 2019 tornado will not take place as scheduled this month.
Council approved a request by Keaton to begin the process to paint the interior of the 500,000-gallon water storage tank in Golden Gate Park.
The city water fund has included $131,000 for abrasive blasting and $37,000 in engineering costs for the project. Council’s action approved entering into an agreement with Dixon Engineering for engineering services not to exceed $37,000.
Bids will be advertised for the interior painting project now.
Keaton also noted that on April 1 the Family First Coronavirus Response Act took effect and this allows for certain employees to take up to two weeks of paid sick leave when the employee is unable to work due to having COVID-19 symptoms or in quarantine.
The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act will provide up to 12 weeks of expanded family leave when an eligible employee is unable to work due to care for a child or if their child’s school or place of care is closed due to COVID-19 reasons.
First responders, who make up most of the city work force have been excluded from these acts, but Keaton received authorization from Council to pay emergency sick leave to employees who are sick, or quarantined, or under the direction of a doctor for potential exposure to COVID-19.
Keaton was asked by Council members about the potential loss of income tax revenues.
Responding to Member J.D. Fowler’s question about the loss, Keaton said any loss total is “not known. It will affect us greatly.”
Council Member Curt Schreier thanked Keaton for “keeping up to date” on the COVID-19 situation.
Fire Chief Ron Fletcher said his department has seen a drop in calls for service since the outbreak. However, he did note that some people being treated for EMS reasons are “putting off hospital visits when they should be going.”
Fletcher said his staff has taken “preventive measures (some of which are noted on the city Facebook page) to protect our staff.”
He added that decontamination of department equipment has picked up significantly. He said that department supply of Personal Protective Gear is “sitting good.”
“We are certainly appreciative of the support we get,” Fletcher said. “We will have some tough decisions to make in the months ahead.”
Brookville Mayor Chuck Letner complimented the fire department crews.
“You guys are doing a fine job in very tough times,” said Letner. “You guys are up to the task.”
Police Chief Doug Jerome said reportable calls are down, but that might be “deceiving.
“We have had to cut out doing many things to limit contact with the public, but we are still making high-visibility patrols.”
He also thanked the fire department for helping to supply his department with PPE supplies.
Letner also thanked Jerome and his staff.
“I appreciate your professionalism as you represent Brookville very well,” said Letner.
Letner appreciated the efforts by city residents to try and cope during the COVID-19 situation.
“We are in unprecedented times and everyone is doing the best they can,” said Letner. “We are going to get through this, and we’ll do it together.
“It is better to be six-feet apart rather than six-feet under,” added Letner. “What we are doing now is working.”
Following the close of the meeting Letner said he though the on-line meeting went well.
“I think this was a great success,” said Letner.
The next meeting for Brookville City Council is scheduled for Tuesday, April 21, at 7:30 p.m. Like the April 7 meeting, if the April 21 meeting is held, it will be held via an on-line platform.
The city has announced that it cancelled the April 14 Park Board meeting due to the COVID-19 issue.