CHAGRIN FALLS — Late last week, Village Hall deemed the COVID-19 outbreak dire enough to start sanitizing every village-owned push-button, nob or railing people use or touch.

Armed with spray bottles and rags, two village Service Department employees sprayed and wiped down every parking meter, pedestrian signal activator, playground equipment, public restrooms and railings in town.

Then they tackled park benches, tables and play equipment and sanitized all touchable surfaces inside the police department and Village Hall including council chambers. But when council will meet there again is uncertain, Mayor William Tomko said.

“We might have to hold public meetings through a kind of television available on our phones and also accessible to the public.”

All village meetings have been canceled for the time being. A decision on when these can meet again is pending the evolving COVID-19 situation.

Mayor Tomko said there are no crucial items on the agenda at present except passing the annual budget, which will be voted on in a public session of some kind but likely not face-to-face.

As cases of the disease caused by a novel coronavirus increase, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has ordered schools and restaurants closed and banned large groupings, among other precautions.

Meanwhile in Chagrin, sanitizing was a trial run, but due to heightened concern, Mayor Tomko said Monday that sanitizing will become part of the service department’s weekly routine.

According to Village Administrator Rob Jamieson, “Right now, there are no formal guidelines published to perform such work, so we are paying close attention to the (Cuyahoga) County Health Department and emergency management agency (for updates).”

This work is just preventative and not required at this time. The cost for the sanitization program should not be a shock to the village budget.

“As far as costs, we estimate that we used approximately $60 in disinfectant spray materials and three workers who completed the work in two hours for a labor cost of about $180 for a total estimated cost of $240.”

The task is a new duty for village employees but is not a problem at this time of year.

“Although this is a new duty, we have flexibility this time of the year and no exact duties were postponed in order to perform this task,” he noted. “Sanitization can be easily accommodated within the present routine and workload,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, Chagrin Falls Township Hall, which is operated under the purview of township trustees, has been cleaned and sanitized as well.

“We are trying to keep Township Hall safe,” Trustee Chairman John Finley said Monday. He said all scheduled rentals have been canceled and deposits refunded.

Chagrin Valley Chamber of Commerce had cleaned its offices and deep cleaned the Chagrin Falls Visitor’s Center inside the front door of the hall, which it sponsors, he said.

Chairs and tables were being sanitized inside the main hall, according to Mr. Finley.

A professional cleaning company, which services the township hall on a regular basis, is now sanitizing the bathrooms and refilling hand sanitizers along with all disinfecting door knobs, handles and light switches.

The extra tasks will be added to the regular cleaning service on a regular basis.

Goods and services

Downtown Chagrin Falls is a changing patchwork of which stores are open and which are shuttered. Right now, closing and staying open is the choice of owner-shopkeepers.

Councilwoman Angela DeBernardo said Nola True, Geiger’s and Lucia’s Salon have chosen to close until the end of March.

Tuesday morning, Fireside Book Shop announced it would reduce its hours to 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. and postponed or canceled near-future events.

Heinen’s Grocery Store remains open but announced on March 14 that it would close all its ready-to-consume food bars in all its stores including those in Chagrin Falls, Pepper Pike and Bainbridge. This includes the olive and salad bars, soup stations and self-serve bakery items.

FlipSide and Bell & Flower restaurants have decided to close rather than continue with carry-out service, Mrs. DeBernardo said. Gov. DeWine banned sit-down service, but still allowed take-out and delivery.

Some businesses have adjusted their hours of operation. Other restaurants will abide by the new rules for bars and restaurants and re-tool for take-out and delivery service.

So far, one restaurant owner, Sali McSherry, has announced her Paris Room Bistro will offer carry-out and delivery service free of charge for lunch and dinner – beer and wine also available – within a limited time frame and “reasonable” distance from the restaurant.

Mayor Tomko said Tuesday that the village has marked free designated parking spaces for pickup of takeout orders from local restaurants.

There are two such spaces on the east end of River Street and one on West Street plus all spaces on Plaza Drive.

Fun, games, the arts

The Chagrin Valley Jaycees met last week but have not announced the fate of this year’s Blossom Time Festival, although that decision may be taken out of their hands by state and federal mandates.

Mary Ann Breisch, the Valley Art Center’s executive director, said artists accepted into this year’s Art by the Falls outdoor festival in Riverside Park have been notified that the center is “cautiously optimistic” that the show will go on.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive from the artists,” Mrs. Breisch said.

But the art center’s director and staff are staying nimble, waiting for their cue from those who make the rules surrounding everything COVID-19. VAC has advised accepted artists to do the same but if bad becomes worse, they will get their entry money back.

Although it was hoped the center would remain open during the epidemic, that was short-lived with new state guidelines for gatherings, mandating the cancellation and postponement of classes and gallery events.

That applies to other organizations including Valley Art Center and Chagrin Arts, which canceled the opening of their new gallery shows, and the Chagrin Valley Little Theatre, which had announced postponement of the opening of its next production, auditions and River Street Playhouse shows until the end of April.

Village Council’s Arts Commission Chairman Pam Spremulli congratulated organizations on decision-making skills during the highly changeable situation.

“Your efforts and civil duties in fighting COVID -19 are to be commended,” she wrote in an email to constituents.

“It is not easy having to temporarily shut our doors as what we do is not only our passion but our livelihood, (but) the setback now will only return tenfold with respect, gratitude and trust.Thank you for all you are doing as global citizens.”

For updates on closings, call municipal officials and arts groups or check their websites. This information changes minute by minute, chamber officials are saying.

A veteran reporter and columnist, Barbara Christian has been covering Chagrin Falls since 1967 and is currently responsible for Chagrin Falls village events, government and school board news along with her weekly column "Window on Main Street."

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