Mayor Jim Forthofer has issued the following statement regarding the coronovirus pandemic and city operations and response:
All administration employees are committed to the continuation of uninterrupted essential services to the residents and businesses of Vermilion during this pandemic. These services include police, fire, ambulance, water, wastewater and clear roads.
I have met with our city’s plant managers and labor representation. They are all supportive of whatever is necessary to keep systems operating. We have established skeleton staffing necessary to deliver services.
Our first responders have contingency plans in place for 24/7 protection of the community. We had a department heads meeting again Monday morning to review continued operations considering the unfolding situation. I am in regular contact with the superintendent of Vermilion Local Schools, the Erie Health Department and our county commissioners.
COVID-19 itself has not yet hit our city operations, however, we are impacted by the same disruptions as the general public. The most impactful challenge to city operations is the closing of our local schools. City employees with school-age children are in a bind.
Staff reductions will likely be necessary as the city complies with the Federal Families First Act working its way to the president. This act will likely provide up to 80 days leave for eligible employees who have school-age children or sick relatives.
Administrative actions taken
Water shutoffs for continued nonpayment are suspended for this month. We will waive late fees and penalties for March.
Lorain, Huron and other Ohio cities have closed their City Halls to the public.
We are going to be closing the windows at the building and utilities departments. Few utility bills are paid in person.
Building permits can now be applied for online.
Walk-ups to the mayor’s office window will also be closed. I return all of my phone calls the same day.
Boards and commissions will need to deal with a rise in building permits, requests for variances, review of building plans and preparation of ports activities and parks. We don’t want the plans for growth in Vermilion to stop.
We will review the need for boards and commission meeting one at a time.
Tuesday's parks board meeting is canceled.
Erie County Health Department
I attended a meeting with the Erie County Health Department on Monday. Director Pete Schade emphasized to county leaders the protection of first responders first so that they may remain healthy enough to assist others. He also said that cases of COVID-19 will peak in April and May.
Health resources are being built up in anticipation. Mental health will be an ongoing concern as the pandemic proceeds. They advised that people focus on doing normal things as much as possible.
We will post contacts for services available to our city’s seniors on our website. It is important that we take care of each other during this crisis. Please check on a senior, someone disabled or anyone vulnerable.
A community like Vermilion has proven that it helps its own. I encourage everyone to watch out for each other and take that one extra step to offer help to your neighbors.
Nicole DeFreitas, the transit administrator of Sandusky, said there will be no fare for the next three weeks on Share-A-Ride to help families in need to access food distribution sites. The phone number will also be posted online.
We’ll move past this.
The administration will do what’s necessary to get through this pandemic. But the city has roads to replace, water lines to replace, sidewalks to install and a fire station to build. As I said, building permits are way up. We will not lose sight of the future of Vermilion.