Approves Budget & Excess Levy; Discusses COVID-19 Safety
By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
The COVID-19 crisis has unfortunately forced many changes to be made – including those relative to Shinnston City Council meetings. The location of the meeting was originally scheduled for the evening of Monday, March 23rd in Council Chambers. The meeting location was later changed to the Woman’s Club clubhouse so that more space would be available for adequate distancing of seating to meet with the social distancing stipulations. However, after Governor Justice’s address cautioning West Virginians to stay at home unless absolutely necessary, the meeting date was changed to March 26th and was held via teleconference. This was announced on the City’s webpage, on Facebook, and was also printed on the City’s electronic signage so that citizens as well would be aware if they wanted to participate or listen in on the teleconference.
A public hearing was first held beginning at 7 p.m. No comments were offered by the public, so those action items proceeded to be voted upon. Both items, the 2020-2021 Budget Submission as well as the Excess Levy Submission, were passed unanimously.
The Special Meeting then recessed and was immediately followed by the work session. There were no petitions of citizens to speak.
Mayor Patrick Kovalck had no report but urged everyone to stay at home if possible and to keep a safe distance if they had to go out for any reason. He called upon everyone to pray that this situation could be kept under control and that soon lives could return to normal.
City Manager Chad Edwards noted in his report that the COVID-19 situation had obviously brought about some major alterations and that he would continue to make more if necessary.
He first reported that the water office was closed and that water bills could be paid by dropping payments in the drop box, via mail, or paid by phone between the hours of 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. Monday through Friday via credit or debit card, or through Wesbanco’s drive-through.
He also announced that the Park is closed; no group activities nor playground usage is permitted until further notice; however, those who wish to walk the trail can do so as long as safe distancing is observed.
Four City employees are off sick, and regardless of their illness, any City worker who is sick automatically is to take 14 days off. Two employees were tested for COVID-19; both were negative. Mr. Edwards also noted that none of the City workers were to travel together in the same vehicles in order to limit close contact.
The Shinnston Police Department is fully operational, out patrolling, etc., but they have been given permission to do paperwork from home if desired. Edwards said police officers were in need of masks which had been ordered and they were on a waiting list from the Health Department.
Mayor Kovalck said the funeral home where he works is expecting an order of masks at any time, and they would be willing to share with SPD.
Mr. Edwards noted that each department head in the City has been instructed to detail any expenses incurred related to COVID-19 and they would seek funding help to cover those expenses.
There are only two people in the City’s Administrative office and they, too, have restrictions – not to use one another’s phones or computer keyboards while this situation remains.
No one other than workers are permitted in the water/sewer plants.
Other items the City Manager discussed were:
– The storage tank on the east side is overflowing and that is being addressed by engineers.
– DEP permit for the Lincoln Apartments project has been received. Stantec is drawing up the construction bids on that.
– All events in April have been cancelled.
– B&O Taxes due on June 30th will now be extended to July 31st.
– Travelling out of town for employee training will be prohibited at this time.
Edwards said he would continue to reassess all policies and procedures on a regular basis and make adjustments where they are required.
He also noted that people from New York were on their way to Shinnston to replace a water filter and he told them to go back so as to extinguish any chance of carriage of the virus.
Mr. Edwards complimented Safety Coordinator Randy Akers and Water Plant Chief Operator Scott Aldridge for their work and open communication with him throughout this difficult time. He also praised Police Chief Jon Harbert and all of the officers whose workload has been increased yet they are always there to respond.
Akers stated that he is in constant contact with Emergency Services and communicates those messages to the City Manager multiple times a day.
All members of Council thanked Mr. Edwards for staying on top of all policies and procedures to keep workers and the community safe during this time of uncertainty.
Just prior to adjourning, Mayor Kovalck stated, “It is a priority to protect our workforce because our City cannot function without our employees.”