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Restrictions complicate meeting plans

With restrictions in place limiting public gatherings due to the coronavirus, villages in the county are having to adjust plans for their April meetings of council.

Chesapeake was set to host their monthly meeting on Monday, but Mayor Kim Oldaker said they have decided to cancel it.

“We’re going to just go for one in May,” she said.

The meetings can often draw as many as 20-30 people, in addition to the five-member council, the mayor and fiscal officer.

“With everything going on, we don’t want to congregate,” Oldaker said.

She said, even if they had limited attendance to officials, the tight space in the council room would make social distancing of five feet between members impossible.

The council’s next meeting is set for 7 p.m. Monday, May 4.

A state of emergency is in place in Chesapeake, issued by the mayor, and use of village hall is limited, though Oldaker said they have kept busy in recent weeks, working on improvements to the grounds and cleaning monuments.

In South Point, Mayor Jeff Gaskin said the council was supposed to meet on Tuesday, but they have postponed the meeting for two weeks to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 21.

“Originally, we thought that would be good enough,” the mayor said. “But we’re thinking now that it won’t be.”

The White House announced on Sunday that social distancing guidelines will remain in place until April 30, while Ohio is under a stay-at-home order and state health director Amy Acton said coronavirus cases are not expected to peak until late April or early May.

Gaskin said the village is working with the Ohio secretary of state’s guidelines on public meetings.

He said one option for villages is to do a meeting by phone, using a teleconference system, while the village is leaning toward a Facebook live meeting, if a public session is not possible.

He said residents could submit questions in advance, and that meeting would likely be limited to the council, the mayor and the village clerk and only tackle essential business.

Gaskin said South Point is also contemplating rescheduling the village’s spring clean-up, which was set for the last week of April, but have not set a new date yet.

Proctorville’s council is not supposed to meet until April 16. Mayor Rick Dunfee said it is still early and they have not made alternative plans, but, if needed, they may opt to do a limited meeting, with just key officials.

The restrictions have impacted other meetings in the county. The Lawrence County Commission has had attendance closed at their sessions, but have continued to offer a livestream of business on their Facebook page. Ironton’s city council has also opted for a Facebook feed to make up for limiting attendance.