By Ris Twigg
Obetz officials are planning for a soft June 1 village reopening, pending any additional orders from Governor Mike DeWine.
To facilitate the reopening of businesses and government operations, Obetz Village Council appointed Jess Griffith, currently the grounds superintendent, to the newly established deputy safety director position.
“Currently, the safety director works closely with the police department as well as the other departments just like (the ordinance) says, to ensure the safety not only internally of our operations but of the community as well,” Stacey Boumis, director of community services, said during the May 11 virtual council meeting.
Mayor Angie Kirk said Griffith submitted a post-pandemic recovery plan to her that she’ll review virtually with him this week. That plan includes staggered reopenings similar to those ordered by DeWine, a plan for purchasing and distributing personal protective equipment (PPE) to organizations that need it, sanitation plans for public spaces and additional emergency management protocols, among other things.
“We had put in a start-up day of about June 1 because we figured that would get us through the governor’s reopening of things he’s reopening,” Kirk said. “We’re doing all the little soft openings of things and hopefully the next council meeting will be live instead of virtual.”
Even if the next council meeting is in person, Kirk said her team will still host a virtual meeting for folks to attend if they feel uncomfortable or unsafe gathering in groups, or for those who have a high risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Obetz’s coronavirus cases rose by two since the last council meeting on April 27 for a total of four cases, but out of those four cases, two people have recovered and one person’s results are pending, Kirk said.
“I think we’re going to get through this. I do,” Kirk said. “I feel comfortable that we’ve only had four reported and two of them are recovered, which makes me, I’m very grateful for that. So that’s why I know that our people have taken it seriously.”
Obetz made major changes to how the village is operating during the pandemic. Obetz staff are working in staggered shifts to maintain social distancing. No one has been furloughed, and if staff are not in the office on the clock, they’re at home completing online training and certifications. Obetz officials have enforced a rule that employees take one to two hours of “self-care” time each day, Kirk added.
“We’ve required them (to get training) because we have throughout this continued to pay them,” Kirk said. “These people need their jobs just like everyone else in America and we are fortunate enough to be able to keep them here. We’re trying to make sure we’re doing the right thing mentally and financially.”
Police officers switched to 12-hour shifts to cut down on officer rotation and the potential for cross-contamination, and are required to complete at-home training as well.
For Kirk, the pandemic is giving her a challenge in her first four months on the job as Obetz’s mayor. Every day, she’s on calls with the governor’s office, the Franklin County Health Department, Representative Joyce Beatty and other municipal mayors to determine the best way to get Obetz through the pandemic.
“This has been baptism by fire,” she said. “Luckily I had that little bit of background there for the past six years being on council. I will tell you I have probably learned more in the past four months than I ever expected to learn.”