AURORA – "Desperate times call for desperate measures" is an expression believed to have originated with a saying coined by ancient Greek physician Hippocrates.
It essentially means actions that might seem unusual, extraordinary or extreme under normal circumstances are appropriate during adversity.
The coronavirus outbreak throughout the world certainly could be considered one of those desperate times, and authorities are resorting to unconventional measures to cope with it. Aurora city government is one of them.
With federal and state officials and health experts urging limits on gatherings of people and Aurora Council facing a lengthy agenda at its March 23 meeting, city officials tried a different format for the session, and it seemed to work well.
Only three Council reps – George Horvat, Scott Wolf and Kathi Grandillo – were present in Council chambers, along with Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin, Law Director Dean DePiero, Service Director Harry Stark and Director of Personnel/Chief of Staff Karen Pope.
Council reps John Kudley, Reva Barner, Harold Hatridge, Dennis Kovach and Jim Vaca and Parks-Rec Director Laura Holman were connected to the meeting remotely from their homes.
Residents were advised not to attend the session, but observe the proceedings via live streaming on the city’s website.
Three separate meetings actually were streamed – a special meeting to approve an ordinance declaring a public health emergency in the city, the committee of the whole session and the regular Council meeting.
Once some technical difficulties involving band width at the beginning of the first meeting were resolved, the live steaming process went smoothly. Officials said it was the first time live streaming of city meetings took place.
"This procedure is amazing," said Vaca at the end of the regular meeting. "I’m used to 8-track tapes and cassettes, but this technology is outstanding and I look forward to doing it for at least another month."
Horvat said it was a monumental task setting up the live streaming and remote access process, and he and DePiero credited paralegal Angie Pereces, department heads and a number of other city employees for pulling it together.
The ordinance approved at the special session declares a public health emergency and enacts uncodified regulations with respect to employee pay and fringe benefits, public meetings and general operations.
DePiero explained the ordinance gives the mayor the authority to implement procedures related to duties of employees, pay, sick leave, etc. and also relaxes restrictions spelled out in Ohio’s open meeting law. He added several state officials determined that conducting local government meetings such as Council did is legal and acceptable.
The ordinance will remain in effect until May 15 or 14 days after Gov. Mike DeWine lifts the state of emergency.
Meanwhile, Womer Benjamin updated Council on measures the city is taking to cope with COVID-19. "This is indeed a unique situation," she said. "Things are changing daily. I thank our department heads and employees for their continuing efforts in keeping the city running, and I urge residents to keep an eye on our website for updates."
The mayor said the city’s transportation program and senior center activities have been suspended, playgrounds and city buildings are off-limits to the public, meetings among staff are being limited, some employees’ schedules have been modified, buildings are being sanitized regularly and the city is doing everything it can to protect its employees.
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