MEDINA – Council's six-minute special meeting March 18 was not business as usual.
With members practicing social distancing by sitting at least 3 feet apart throughout city hall's rotunda, Medina City Council took actions relative to the COVID-19 pandemic and discussed ways to keep working during it.
Council also suspended its three-reading rule on all ordinances and resolutions going forward.
Two ordinances were passed in emergency fashion – the first being the suspension of disconnection of water service on delinquent accounts through June 30 due to what Council President John Coyne referred to as the pandemic's "economic disruptions." Water users will still continue to be billed normally during this period.
"You will not be disconnected because it's very important that you continue to wash your hands," Coyne said. "But it's not going to be a free holiday here. You're still going to have to pay the bill and pay penalties associated with nonpayment."
The second ordinance council passed amended city code relative to holding its public meetings during what the state of Ohio has declared to be a state of emergency. Council, which normally meets second and fourth Mondays monthly, is expected to convene on an as-needed basis, possibly moving and postponing regular meeting times as the public health crisis evolves. The amendment passed gives the president of council the ability to call the shots on whether a meeting should be postponed or canceled or to ban public attendance.
"This may become an important issue in the weeks to come," Coyne warned, adding the body is considering moving to one meeting per month and possibly holding meetings during council's summer recess so legislation supporting vital government services is not delayed.
Council closed its meetings to members of the public and Coyne strongly urged residents to watch remotely. Medina TV, the local government's media access, broadcasts council and school board meetings live on channels 36 and 37 for Armstrong customers, as well as on Facebook at Medina TV's page.
"Contact us via Facebook, via email, so if you have questions and you don't want to attend, we will be able to answer your questions during the meeting," Coyne said.
Councilman At-Large Bill Lamb is recommending department heads, usually present at council meetings, submit their reports ahead of time and not attend meetings. A decision on that has not yet been made.
City Hall closed to public
Mayor and Safety Director Dennis Hanwell closed City Hall to the public March 23 following the governor's "stay at home" order.
"These efforts are being taken to limit exposure of public to staff and vice versa," Hanwell said.
Appointments to meet with staff will be required, Hanwell said, and a bin will be provided in the vestibules of both entrances at 132 N. Elmwood Ave. to leave written correspondence for any city department.
Residents are encouraged to pay utility bills online or by mail or by calling 330-722-9053. Drop boxes are also available outside of the Medina Municipal Court (across Elmwood from City Hall) to pay bills, including Armstrong Cable bills. They're also encouraged to call with questions or concerns rather than visit in-person.
Lamb on March 18 questioned what would happen in the event a City Hall employee tests positive for COVID-19 and whether it would require all City Hall personnel to be quarantined.
"There would be no City Hall," Lamb told The Post. "We know we could do a lot with a much scaled-down staff ... we need to set a good example."
In the meantime, a portion of the city's website (medinaoh.org) has been dedicated to resources and general information and alerts regarding the pandemic. Content will be updated daily, Hanwell said.
"We will do our best to work through these challenges together," Hanwell said in a March 19 press release. "I also ask that you please continue to support our local businesses by purchasing carryout, home delivery, or curb side services. If you have elderly or infirm neighbors, please check in on them and check for any needs they may have for assistance."