By Ris Twigg
Most of Obetz’s annual summer events are cancelled, except for the Fourth of July fireworks and tentatively the Zucchinifest, which was temporarily defunded during the June 8 Obetz Village Council meeting.
The Zucchinifest was stripped of funding — but not cancelled — after council voted to cut $2.1 million in expenses in the 2020 general operating fund. Council will revisit the possibility of hosting the annual September event under then-current coronavirus health orders in August.
A ride vendor for the event terminated its contract with the village and officials think it will be hard to find a replacement — with or without the funding.
“Essentially we’ll go through the whole budget process again,” Obetz Village Administrator Rod Davisson said. ”I’ll operate this until September, and from there…re-evaluate. We may do something later in the year.”
The cuts were necessary because of the need to mobilize additional resources used to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, as well as reductions in income tax and event revenue, he explained.
Davisson said that the annual fireworks show usually held at Fortress Obetz will go on, but without people in the park. Instead, residents are encouraged to watch the fireworks from their front porches or backyards.
“Unlike years past, there will only be fireworks. There will be no event at the Fortress. We will close down the park,” Davisson said. “We thought it was important to do something and try to do something safely.”
The government building and the Obetz Athletic Club remain open, but with limited capacity. At the OAC, the number of staff in the building have been tripled to ensure that coronavirus health measures are being implemented, such as additional cleaning, maintaining occupancy levels that meet social distancing requirements and more.
All village rental facilities are closed, as well as splash pads, pools, the Obetz Community Center and Fortress Obetz. Basketball leagues, summer kids camps and other expanded programming are also cancelled for the summer.
Public services, senior transportation and the food pantry have all continued to operate throughout the pandemic.
“What we’ve done here is, let’s evaluate each month as it comes because each month it’s changing,” Davisson said in response to Governor Mike DeWine’s frequently updated public health orders that municipalities must comply with.
Council also voted unanimously to request $90,000 in federal funding using the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, And Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to help cover a small portion of the expenses the village acquired during its state of emergency.
Currently, there are about six people in Obetz who have tested positive for the coronavirus.
“But we seem to be doing really well at not getting it. Six or seven people out of 5,000 is decent,” Davisson said.
And, for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, council met publicly in-person and did not have a virtual meeting option available.
“The attendance on our virtual meetings has been as low as or lower than our in-person attendance,” Davisson said. “So knowing what our typical crowd has been and knowing what our virtual crowd has been, we decided to have the meeting here without the tremendous amount of production. It was eating too much time.”
But Davisson said his team is looking into outfitting the council chamber with audio and video capabilities to have efficient and streamlined virtual meetings permanently, but the change wouldn’t take place for at least six months or more.