Despite the pressures wrought by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there is the ray of hope: So far, the city of Bowling Green seems to be weathering the crisis well.
Speaking during a 4th Ward quarterly meeting held Thursday evening, Mayor Mike Aspacher said that he has been “very, very pleased with the city’s response to this challenge.
“Our community has responded, I think, in an unbelievably positive way. We’re caring for each other,” he said.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the meeting was held online, with all participants attending virtually.
Aspacher said that the city has been focused on, and takes very seriously, providing essential services, and said the city has continued to function, and both the police and fire divisions continue to operate “at full force.”
“We are just so thankful for the work they do in our community every day in normal circumstances,” he said. “I think their response to the current challenges have only made more clear the value that we place in them.”
Aspacher said other essential services – such as utilities, and trash and recycling collection – have continued without interruption and “it’s our intention to continue to do that.”
There have been some modifications, he said. Some city employees are working from home. If residents have city business, “if you call the city as you normally would, your call will be answered,” and functions are continuing with very little delay.
Turning to the city’s businesses in this period, Aspacher thanked those that are operating with carryout and delivery services.
“The impact on many of our businesses is devastating,” he added.
He said they have been working in recent days to understand the resources being made available through the federal government for businesses and “we’re coordinating with our partners at the Four Corners group.” Aspacher also noted there is a special tab on the city’s website dedicated solely to COVID-19 information, and that it is being updated multiple times during the a day.
Aspacher said there will be no utility shutoffs during the crisis. He said those facing issues can call the utilities department business office, which will put them in contact with someone who can help.
“Rest assured, you will continue to receive your services,” he said.
Aspacher also extended thanks to community partners like Bowling Green State University, Wood County Hospital, the Wood County Health Department and Bowling Green City Schools.
“I’ve been so pleased with how everybody has drawn together to collaborate” he said.
Superintendent Francis Scruci, and everyone involved with the schools “have just done an exceptional job of rising to the occasion and meeting the needs of young people,” not just through educational programs, but also in providing for the nutritional needs of those who need it.
“I think it’s just extraordinary how our community has responded to this.”
Aspacher also encouraged residents to be mindful of following the recommended preventative measures such as social distancing, washing hands and staying home if they’re not feeling well.
“Because we are just now entering the most critical phase of this fight. The next two weeks will be critical,” he said.
Responding to a question from attendee Ginny Stewart, BGSC Board of Education president, Aspacher noted that he and Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter have been in discussion with BGSU President Rodney Rodgers, and others at the university regarding putting in place a housing option for first responders and health care workers who could parentally be exposed to the COVID-19 virus. This would be for those who may need to quarantine and who may not feel comfortable doing so in their own homes. He said a further conference call about the matter is scheduled for Friday morning, and they hope to announce details soon.
Bill Herald, 4th Ward councilman who hosted the meeting, praised for Aspacher and the city administration for their leadership.
“We as individuals need to rise and see where we can help, and I’m in awe of how Bowling Green residents have been doing just that,” he said.
“I am also quite proud to be part of this city,” said Councilman Greg Robinette, who attended the meeting. “The mayor and administration are doing a fantastic job under the circumstances. I think we’re going to weather this storm in as good a condition as we can possibly hope for.”
Matters related to city council and its operations were also discussed. Herald noted that because of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, council “has been putting items on the back burner.” He said that it’s not a good idea to bring up potentially controversial issues without the benefit of public input.
However, a community improvement committee meeting planned for Monday on the rental property issue will be taking place, Herald said. He added that the committee has already held a number of meetings with ample public input prior to the restrictions. However, even that issue isn’t likely to be moving at full steam ahead because of the present crisis: while Monday is the deadline for the committee to submit recommendations to council, Herald said it is his understanding that “it will be addressed, but not immediately.”
For Monday’s scheduled council meeting, he said council chambers will be limited to 10 people total, though the meeting will be live-streamed. Answering a question from attendee Margaret Montague about how council members themselves will be meeting, he said that there has been discussion on the issue, and that those members who are comfortable attending in person may do so, but those who are not will have other arrangements made. He said that he plans to attend in person. Restrictions preventing members from voting while not physically attending a meeting have been relaxed, he said.
“We are trying to adapt, and trying to reach the happy medium of getting the people’s business done but being a good example,” Herald said.