SIDNEY — The Sidney City Council passed a resolution to officially declare a state of emergency within the city of Sidney during Monday evening’s meeting.
City Manager Mark Cundiff presented the city of Sidney’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resolution which institutes emergency action.
According to City Clerk Kari Egbert’s minutes, Cundiff told council the city emergency operations team has been meeting daily since Friday, March 13, 2020, to discuss the actions needed and will continue to needed to be taken. He said the city has taken the following actions:
• All city buildings have been closed to the public, except the lobbies at the police department and Fire Station 1.
• Employees will not be going inside any buildings to read water meters. The city will estimate the amount of usage based on prior usage and will make any adjustments once the emergency situation is over.
• Limit face-to-face meetings with the public, and limit travel and training until the emergency is over.
• Staffing modifications were implemented starting Monday, March 23. Some employees are working from home. Crews are being divided and rotated on a weekly on and off duty schedule. The employees who are off and unable to work from home will be “engaged to be waiting” and expected to be ready to come in should we need to send home any employee who appears to be ill.
The resolution declaring an emergency, Cundiff said, permits the following temporary amendments to the existing ordinances, during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they will:
• Allow the use of an employee’s sick leave balances if they have used all other forms of paid leave in order to stay home to care for their children during the time off from school.
• Allow employees to accrue vacation time in excess of the limits currently established in the ordinance, provided that they bring their accruals into conformance by the end of the year.
• Temporarily suspend shutting off water service for nonpayment. These unpaid fees will continue to accrue and payment and late fees shall be collected after the emergency situation is over.
• Cancel all regularly scheduled City Council meetings, including council’s retreat that was planned for April 1, as well as the city’s various boards and commissions effective as of March 23, 2020. Special meetings may be called if needed.
• Close Tawawa Park to vehicular traffic until May 1, 2020.
Cundiff added the resolution will remain in effect until April 30, 2020, unless rescinded by council. It also allows the temporary amendments to be administratively extended without further City Council approval.
Members briefly discussed the hours at Tawawa Park, public meeting/remote meeting requirements, and possible transit restrictions. Vice Mayor Milligan questioned if or how the Sidney City Airport has been impacted by the pandemic. Cundiff will investigate the impact to the airport.
Cundiff noted it is a very fluid situation and staff will continuously monitor how the minimum staffing is working and making changes as necessary.
Council member Steve Wagner said WMVR/105.5 TAM FM is available to help with emergency communication needs.
Vice Mayor Mardie Milligan questioned the status of the playground equipment closure. Cundiff said the directive to close all playground structures was mandated by the Ohio Department of Health. The city has put up signs to designate the areas as closed.
Council members commended city staff for their actions during this difficult time, Egbert’s minutes noted.
During the public comments portion of the meeting, Council member Darryl Thurber passionately requested city council to consider passing a resolution to express dissatisfaction with the upper congressional leadership. He felt some civic leaders have not taken the COVID-19 situation as seriously as it should be. He appreciated the measures taken by the federal government, but feels additional measures should have been taken. He said he felt several businesses were jeopardizing the safety and health of local workers for the profit of their respective companies. He also said congressional leadership needs to act in a bipartisan manner to protect the health and safety of citizens.
Members of council briefly discussed the request with no decision made.