Jerome Township decides to close public offices


Few residents were in attendance at Thursday’s Jerome Township Trustees Meeting in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. Chairs usually set up in rows were instead spaced throughout the room and a bottle of hand sanitizer was next to the doorway. Fire Chief Douglas Stewart encouraged residents to practice social distancing and limit person-to-person contact. (Journal-Tribune photo by Kayleen Petrovia)

At the close of business today, Jerome Township offices will be closed to the public.
During Thursday’s trustees meeting, Fire Chief Douglas Stewart shared several recommendations as to how the township can stay safe during the COVID-19 epidemic.
“We don’t have it perfect because we don’t know what this thing is going to do… we just have to roll with the punches,” Stewart said.
Trustees voted unanimously to close township offices to the public until April 20, although Stewart said it may be extended or shortened.
“Until we know what’s going on, we want to be safe with our staff,” Trustee C.J. Lovejoy said.
Stewart, who also acts as the Director of Departments, said employee office hours will be reduced and staff will create an alternating schedule to ensure few people are together.
Those who are able to work from home will be asked to do so, Stewart said, while others who need to be in the office will limit contact with others.
Stewart said his recommendations revolve around social distancing and aim to limit personal interactions.
In accordance, the board also approved the cancellation of all township building rentals during the month of April. Stewart said there were originally three rentals.
Trustees asked that staff advised anyone with a reservation in May that a decision will be made in April whether rentals will be canceled.
Board of Zoning Appeals and zoning commission meetings in the month of April were also canceled.
Stewart recommended trustees meetings be reduced to once a month, but Trustee Joe Craft said he felt more comfortable keeping two meetings on the calendar.
While staff adjusts, Stewart said the Division of Fire will continue to operate normally.
Trustee Megan Sloat asked if first responders were well equipped with the amount of necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks and gloves.
Stewart said the county created a “hypothetical scenario” estimating COVID-19 spread based on populations in each township and each was given a supply based on those numbers. However, if one area sees an increase in need, they are able to borrow from other townships.
There is also an additional stock of PPE at the emergency operations center (EOC), Stewart said, and are also eligible to request state resources.
“We’re really good for about four weeks… if we see a major influx like they did in Washington (state), we’re going to be desperate,” Stewart said, adding that a possible spike in cases would likely affect all of Ohio, not just Union County.
He estimated responders encounter approximately one person each day with symptoms of COVID-19, but said it’s difficult to differentiate whether they actually have the coronavirus or the common flu.
To stay safe, Stewart said the Division of Fire and EMS is taking precautions and wearing protective gear when responding to residents.
“Union County is actually setting the bar for everyone else in the state,” he said.
Stewart also explained the impact the COVID-19 outbreak has had on the fire levy, following the delay of the March 17 primary election.
However, he said the epidemic “is a perfect example of why this levy is so important.”
The proposed 3.5 mill levy would bolster staffing, which Stewart said is necessary to handle emergencies like this.
“We would lose our entire workforce if we had to quarantine someone for two weeks,” he said.
“It’s life or death,” Craft responded.
Craft also emphasized that the township will stop collecting on the 1991, 2.3 mill levy if the new 3.5 mill levy passes.
In other business:
– Trustees agreed to commit to purchase 400 tons of salt from the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) for the 2021 winter season.
Stewart said the township has purchased 400 tons the past several years. He said there are approximately 330 tons in the salt barn right now because “it was a weak year.”
The salt barn has the capacity to hold nearly 150 more tons.
If the not enough salt is purchased, the township would have to buy it off-contract at an increased price. When the township has needed to do so in the past, Lovejoy said, “I want to say it was double (the price).”
Stewart said the township has strong relationships with other municipalities in the area who would be willing to hold extra salt if Jerome Township’s salt barn could not store it all.
– Trustees appointed Tracey Guerin to a two-year term as an alternate on the zoning commission.

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