By SCOTT COTTOS
Fostoria City Council, as it normally would, passed several measures at its meeting Friday.
But this was no normal council meeting.
Six o’clock on Tuesday evening in the municipal building’s council chambers was changed to 2:30 p.m.. on Friday at the Fostoria Learning Center.
Seating was spread out in the lobby for council members and a few others, and the public was prohibited from attending in favor of being allowed to watch the meeting live on Facebook.
Welcome to city government, coronavirus style.
With the pandemic of the highly contagious and potentially deadly virus gripping the world, Fostoria is no different from any other entity in altering its operations.
Mayor Eric Keckler addressed the topic during his report to council.
“We didn’t necessarily lock the city building down, but we’ve had limited public access to the building, even more when the (Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal) court made its decision about trying to limit the number of people coming to cases and to probation,” he said after the meeting. “We’re just trying to limit as much traffic in the building as we possibly can to keep employees safe and also to keep the public safe from a bunch of people in the building at one time.”
He said those who typically work in the municipal building have continued to do so, but they’ve been trying to keep employees away from large groups and out of people’s homes.
“We’re having our people do as much as they can without having a lot of contact and doing all the normal things that we’re supposed to do, things like washing hands and keeping things sanitized,” the mayor said. “And we’ll keep looking at what other cities are doing to keep those operations running. Things aren’t exactly normal, but we’re trying to keep it as normal as possible while still being safe.”
Keckler said the city is monitoring information coming out of local, state and federal governments and making adjustments as necessary.
He said special permission from the state was necessary to conduct Friday’s meeting without the public present to be compliant with open-meetings laws. But while meetings of Fostoria City Council and committees have been canceled for April, adjustments may need to be made for future gatherings.
“They are looking at this particular issue down in Columbus as far as Sunshine rules and not having bodies like city council or commissioners meet in person and (instead) doing some kind of teleconferencing or meeting through some sort of media that you could put out to the public in a livestream,” Keckler said. “You could still meet, you could still see who you’re talking to and the public is still getting their information without everyone having to be in one room at the same time. But that all has to be solved down in Columbus. From what I’ve heard, they’ll be working on a solution to that, for at least while this pandemic is going on, to allow cities like ours to have (virtual) meetings to keep everyone safe and running the government at the same time.”
To keep the city moving along, council passed the following measures while waiving the rule of having three separate readings before a vote takes place:
• An ordinance authorizing all actions necessary to accept an Ohio Public Energy Council 2020 Energized Community Grant. The city recently entered into an agreement with NOPEC regarding aggregational electricity.
• An ordinance to repeal a section from city law regarding “motor vehicle pursuit policy.” Police Chief Keith Loreno said the measure would take the issue out of ordinances in order to provide more flexibility to the police division.
• An ordinance authorizing the appropriation of $814,282 for use by the police division and for use within the Revolving Loan Fund, Community Housing Impact Preservation (CHIP) program and Storm Water Fund.
• An ordinance allowing the mayor to enter the city into an agreement with Seneca County and the city of Tiffin to address 2020 housing needs through the CHIP program.
• A resolution to allow the mayor to apply for up to $1.05 million for the CHIP program through the Ohio Development Services Agency’s Office of Community Development.
• A resolution to authorize Fostoria’s participation in the Ohio Department of Transportation road-salt contracts awarded in 2020.
• An ordinance to approve $150,000 going to the Fostoria Community Improvement Association.