Loveland City Manager Dave Kennedy (Provided)
CITY MANAGER DAVE KENNEDY acted quickly and decisively sending city employees home to work remotely. Mayor Kathy Bailey called an emergency meeting of Loveland City Council Tuesday, March 17, to declare the City of Loveland under emergency for the purpose of giving the City Manager authority to make decisions for the city without council approval. Due to the Ohio “Stay at Home” orders, council has not met since then. Staying in touch with residents through email and messaging remains a priority for Kennedy.
“Residents cooperation is pretty incredible, cooperating with changes; changes come quick,” said Kennedy. “Messages, responses have not been snarky, they’ve been understanding. That sort of response is so Loveland.”
Kennedy took immediate steps to protect residents shutting down park restrooms, fencing off playground playsets. He did things which were not pleasant for him, but paint a picture of how things look around the country.
Loveland Mayor Kathy Bailey (Provided)
MAYOR KATHY BAILEY says the message is our city manager is on top of things.
“Things other cities are doing now, Dave was doing weeks ago,” said Bailey, “closing parks restrooms to keep people safe. He’s on top of everything keeping residents healthy, keeping employees healthy, keeping the bottom line healthy by making decisions to make sure our budget is healthy.”
Bailey says city employees are working from home with the hope that they’ll be able to continue. They are aware this COVID-19 response is having an impact on the economy and will affect the budget. In an effort to stay out front of that, Kennedy spent time going through the capital project budget and suspended projects until things stabilize and they know the true impact on the budget.
“We don’t know what our budget will look like,” Bailey said. “Rather that (projects suspended) than furlough, lay off people. We’re trying to get ahead of it to make sure our budget is healthy enough to handle this however long it goes on.”
Bailey is heartened by the response she’s seen from the community when she’s been out picking up carry out and on social media sites. She sees people doing their part patronizing the businesses and restaurants which are open helping to keep them afloat during this. Kennedy is doing his part.
“My direction from the Mayor and City Council is to follow this to the limit of the law and that’s what we do,” Kennedy said. “I’m sitting in a pretty much empty City Hall making sure utility payments and tax payments get done; doing what we have to do for building permits.”
Kennedy says they’re doing all they can to assist local businesses and carry out. They dedicated Railroad Avenue for them putting up signs for carry out. The city is making sure all departments are keeping proper track of things. Ultimately, the city will be applying for assistance. As former city manager for New Richmond, Ohio, where river flooding required emergency assistance, Kennedy knows how important it is for the things they’ll be doing Equipment and personnel hours for the emergency response are reimbursable.
“It’s not about milking the system,” Kennedy explained. “It is about making sure the city is as covered as possible so we get those type expenses back. It’s important to proceed with business, we can’t stick our head in the sand. We need to move forward planning for April 14, meeting.”
Assistant City Manager Tom Smith is already testing virtual meetings like those being done in other cities. The City of Loveland website has a dedicated button for coronavirus updates. Loveland was first community to not turn water off. Water is safe, protected and tested. The challenge is to not turn water back on in structures where failed plumbing or vacancy is the reason for the shut off. Kennedy gushed with pride talking about the city employees, how “they are a great group”, they adjusted and got on top of this response immediately.
“LSFD, Chief Huber didn’t miss a beat, Sean Rahe, Police Chief, those guys are right on top of it,” he said. “I’m really proud I get to work with these people; Misty (Brents) I depend on. They really are something. The Loveland Resources Group. What a community!”
Mayor Bailey echoed those sentiments in reference to the Community Resources Group. NEST, LIFE Food Pantry, the Care Center have taken a load off the city where other cities have had to create and organize resources. Loveland did not have to do that. Those organizations “picked up the ball” and have helped tremendously to meet the needs of the community. One of those needs is supporting businesses.
“Get online at the city website or chamber website to see what businesses are offering gift cards,” said Bailey. “If 20 people buy a $100 card, that $2,000 pays the rent. I think we’re in pretty good shape.”
If not, if you have needs, contact the city, let them know.
Loveland Police Chief Dennis Sean Rahe (Provided)
LOVELAND POLICE CHIEF DENNIS SEAN RAHE said police are making a lot more phone contact with everyone restricted from personal interaction. They are sending forms by email. They are doing their part to maintain social distancing like everyone else. People are complying pretty well.
“It is wonderful to see our community come together,” said Rahe. They are really complying with the Governor and Department of Health request to shut down, segregate, and weather this storm. We really appreciate that.”
Officers on normal patrol may offer a friendly reminder for social distancing if a group seems to be gathering too close, but no major issues have come up. Rahe says the department is trying to minimize interaction for the protection of the residents as well as for the employees of the department.
“When there is a crime in progress, we have to go, and we have to interact with people,” Rahe said. “We try to minimize that interaction as much as possible. We’re there to answer the call for service. If somebody needs help, we’re going to go. We’re going to do what we need to do first.”
When the situation allows, police will try to slow things down to keep interaction to a minimum. Since the start of the COVID-19 response, Rahe and the department have had to adjust like everyone else.
“We’ve had to change quite a bit,” he said. “We practice social distancing, hand-washing, disinfecting the police cruisers for protection. Not just us, but to protect the public we have to interact with.”
There is a bit of a silver lining to the “Stay at Home” response. Though Rahe does not have an exact figure for comparison, the call volume appears to be lower.
“We really appreciate the cooperation and everyone pitching in,” said Rahe. They’re recognizing we’re all in this together to try to minimize the impact this will have on our community, statewide, and nationally.”
Rahe cited two main sources for NON-Emergency police needs for residents:
NON-EMERGENCY calls should go to 513-677-7000 or online visit the City of Loveland Coronavirus tab for links to critical local resources.
Loveland-Symmes Fire Department continues to serve the community throughout the COVID-19 response.
LSFD Chief Otto Huber on the scene of a fire (File photo Chuck Gibson)
LSFD CHIEF OTTO HUBER also noted a silver lining during the Stay at Home Ohio response.
“Run volume has declined drastically,” said Huber. I think people are concerned with going to the hospital. We have not seen any runs relative to COVID. That’s good.”
His concern is some people may be staying home with an illness when they should not be. There are not a lot of fire details. Huber encourages residents to stay home. At the same time, he warns against taking on projects which could result in things like falls from a ladder which could potentially send someone to the E.R. whether they want to go or not.
While a couple of guys were sick, they isolated, did not have COVID-19 and the LSFD is operating with a full crew. Another concern expressed by Chief Huber is the residents calling 9-1-1 to report their suspicions people are not complying with social distancing.
“Calling 9-1-1 because you see people out and about is not appropriate,” Huber said. “We don’t have any COVID police. We don’t have the capacity for that. It ties up the 9-1-1 center for people who need to call with a real emergency.”
Traffic-monitoring shows Huber that more people are complying. He thinks the residents are taking this seriously.
“I think people realize the sooner we flatten the curve, the quicker we get back to normal,” said Huber. “That takes all of us to do are part. Travel only when you need to for nutritional and medical supplies. Stay hunkered down.”
Huber was named to a national firefighter’s task force responding to the economic impact from COVID-19 response. In that capacity, he emphasizes the importance for support of main street business. In Loveland, that is primarily small business operating with small profit margins. Without the support of the community now, they likely will not be here later.
“Can you imagine a July in Loveland with no business,” Huber asked, then recalled, “I can remember time when the best you could do was a fish sandwich at “The Whistle Stop” (Now Paxton’s Grill). If everyone bought a $25 gift card, they would all survive.”
Survival for everyone is important. It begins with protection for the LSFD firefighters who serve the community. They are taking extra steps to stay protected. They are dressing with PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), they are locked down in the station houses. No one is allowed in. They have their temperatures taken and they disinfect constantly. Huber says they have to leave their clothes at the station to avoid taking anything home with them.
“There is stress from worrying about loved ones,” Huber said. “We’re taking every precaution so they don’t take that home.”
Huber worries about residents in the community who are living alone. Churches are closed, they’ve lost that religious community going to church on Sunday. No it is not in the job description for Fire Chief, but he worries about the spiritual well-being of the community when people need that feeling of community more than ever.
“I really believe a faith-based community is important to the success of the community,” said Huber. “As a community we’ll get through it and we’ll be better for it.”
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