A city meeting without the public

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Marysville City Council members were separated as they met Monday in an otherwise empty council chambers. Members of the public could watch a livestream or call into the meeting to make comments. (Photo submitted)

Phone lines opened for resident input
Monday night’s Marysville City Council was like none before it.
The council members, along with City Manager Terry Emery and Clerk of Council Rebecca Dible, sat at tables in an otherwise empty council chambers. The tables allowed them some distance. Citizens were encouraged to call in on the telephone if they wanted to make public comments. Other city officials were required to sit in the hallway. They were ushered into the council chambers one at a time to give reports or answer questions.
Council canceled its April 6 work session as well as the April 4 strategic planning session.
The April 13 council meeting is also in jeopardy. Emery said he and staff will work to push everything to the April 27 council meeting and if there is nothing that can’t be moved, the April 13 council meeting will bae canceled.
Emery said committee and commission meetings have been canceled until further notice. He said that city council meetings “are going to continue, but are not going to be open to public attendance.”
“Hopefully, the further out we go, we can start to go back to some normal operations, but we want to be prepared in case we can’t,” Emery said.
Council member J.R. Rausch said he was opposed to that “blanket order” stopping commission meetings.
He said it would be difficult for the public to have input on zoning and building plans, but the developers want to move forward. He said allowing the public to have input could cost the entire building season.
Emery said staff is “considering the urgency of the request.” He said committees or commissions could be called back into action at any point.
Citing guidance from Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, council approved legislation allowing the body to meet electronically.
“There is some questions on the legalities of that still,” Emery said.
He said he doesn’t want to see meetings nullified because they were done improperly. He said there are groups looking into the legal issues. Berbee said City Law Director Tim Aslaner is actually not in favor of the electronic meetings.
Carpenter acknowledged it is “a legal grey area,” but wants business and development to continue.
“I think it is important not to put a full stop on our city’s economy,” Carpenter said.
Emery said there should be more guidance coming from the state “in the next couple of days.”
“I think everyone in this room understands meetings can take place outside of this room, it is just: How do we get there and how quickly?” Carpenter said.
The legislation was part of larger legislation declaring a state of emergency in the city. The order gives Emery authority to make certain decisions that would normally require committee or council approval. Emery must report the decisions within 48 hours and the decisions can be rescinded by a vote of council.
Human Resource Director Brian Dostanko called the legislation simple and good.
“In essence, it cuts through a lot of red tape,” Dostanko said.
He added officials don’t know how bad it will be or how long it will last. He said the legislation will help city officials “manage through the confinement issues, isolation issues as well as the stay at home (order.)”
He said the declaration delays certain deadlines, allows him to make certain hires and institute policies.
Emery explained that the declaration gives him flexibility and allows him to make decisions more quickly and react to situations as they occur. He used the example of a possible case of COVID -19 at the fire department. He said that firefighter would need quarantined, as would the others working with him. The emergency declaration would allow Emery to approve overtime and bring part-time firefighters to help.
He assured residents it would not be him “running roughshod.” He said he would discuss his decisions with Berbee before making them.
Emery said the city has adjusted and so far, has managed well.
“It has really been a great team effort and I know it has been a difficult time, but I want to assure residents today, your services, your safety services, your essential services from our water to your sewer to your waste collection, everything you normally receive will continue through this process.”
He added, “We have some exceptional people that work for us and the city, and they are dedicated to our community, even in difficult times like this.
“It is critical at this time that we continue to support local businesses during this crisis. We have a lot of businesses still in operation that we would continue to encourage our citizens to utilize these businesses as much as possible,” he said.



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