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On the heels of Governor DeWine announcing his ‘Responsible Restart Ohio’ plan earlier this week, the City of Xenia is communicating its re-opening plan for City offices.
In a video message shared on the City’s Facebook page, City Manager Brent Merriman said re-opening facilities will be “a phased approach as the Governor has laid out, rather than just a stroke of the pen that allows everything to go back to normal.”
Mr. Merriman is signing a new Administrative Directive that will extend the State of Emergency already in place through the month of May. Declaring a State of Emergency allows Xenia to be eligible for funding opportunities as they relate to the COVID-19 response and allows for flexibility relating to staffing and response to services.
City offices closed to the public on March 18th, but staff has been working on an altered schedule. Some staff members have been working remotely while others have continued to report to the office to maintain social distancing recommendations. Beginning May 4th, a City Staff will resume a more regular schedule but offices will remain closed to the public.
Offices will re-open to the public on Monday, May 11th, but on a limited basis. For the time being, City offices will be open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Offices will be closed on Wednesdays to allow for a deep clean. The City is asking the public to allow the first two hours of the day (from 9 a.m. – 11 a.m.) for elderly residents and those vulnerable to COVID-19. “This was a suggestion made at the State level,” Merriman said, “and we think it’s a good idea.”
Lobby areas inside City offices will also have signage in place to mark the flow of traffic and social distancing. Under new guidelines from the State, City facilities must operate at 50% occupancy, which means the number of people allowed in the building will be reduced. “We are still discussing exactly how we do that,” Merriman said. “We are very reluctant to have someone standing at the door saying who can pass and who can’t. We may have to do that, we may not. We are exploring options for that. The key is that we want to be able to provide services in a way that keeps you, our citizens, safe, and our staff safe.”
When visiting City offices, you will also see staff working in the front-line of customer service wearing a mask. “We think it’s important to protect them, and to protect the general public,” Merriman said.
While the City Administration Building and Justice Center will re-open on this timeline, Xenia Municipal Court will release its re-opening separately.
Ohio’s ’Stay at Home’ order remains in effect, however, people are still encouraged to get fresh air and exercise. Xenia’s bike trails have remained open for the public to use for either biking or walking, but playgrounds were ordered to close. At this time, playgrounds will remain closed until leaders at the state level relax the order.
Unfortunately, several upcoming City sponsored spring and summer events have had to be either canceled or postponed due to COVID-19. First Friday events in May and June have been canceled as well as the first Neighborhood Night Out event in May. The annual Fishing Derby will be postponed, “our hope is to be able to push that back to late summer or early fall,” Merriman said.
Many residents have asked about the status of the annual Sonnycalb Fireworks Festival. The annual celebration draws thousands of people not only from Xenia, but surrounding communities. Due to contracts with vendors and the fireworks provider, a decision will have to be made in the next two to three weeks on whether to continue with the festival, or to cancel it. The decision will depend on if the State relaxes the rules on how many people are allowed at gatherings. “We are very reluctant to cancel that event, and I want to say that we will do everything we can to try and have that event as it is currently scheduled,” Merriman said.
It is anticipated that City Council meetings will remain closed to the public for the month of May, however, the public may still submit input for the meetings electronically and watch the meetings live on the City’s YouTube page.