CHARDON — Summer in the city will have fewer community activities this year during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Councilwoman Heather Means announced last week that the Chardon Square Association has canceled KidsFest and Kids Flea Market due to many unknowns and concerns over COVID-19.
Mrs. Means said last week that KidsFest drew about 1,500 kids to Chardon Square in 2019. That high number would essentially make it impossible to hold the event, which was originally set for Aug. 6 this year, under current Ohio Department of Health limitations on large gatherings.
Chardon City Manager Randy Sharpe added that the Chardon Square Association is still considering whether to cancel the annual Arts Fest and Handmade Happenings events, which are scheduled for Aug. 2 and Sept. 13, respectively. He said that the city has yet to come to a decision on events occurring in July such as First Fridays, Dog Days and the chamber car show.
Council also approved a motion to defer rent for April, May and June for Polished Salon & Boutique and Hilltop Nutrition on South Street that have been forced to close due to the pandemic.
During the discussion, Chardon Community Development Administrator Steven Yaney said Hilltop operators indicated that the store would not be reopening after the state’s stay safe order is lifted at the end of May. The former owners are searching for a new health-focused retail space to replace it.
Chardon Law Director Benjamin Chojnacki told council that the Legislative Committee is working on a draft to prohibit the sale of city water outside the community to ensure Chardon’s natural water is protected. “Basically,” he said, “we don’t want Aquafina to move in and start borrowing it.”
About 97 percent of Geauga County homes and businesses use well water.
He referred to the committee’s proposal as a “large user fee”, explaining that Chardon would assess anyone who would want to use city water to determine a proper fee, based on the amount of water the public uses and how much is paid for it.
Director of Parks and Recreation Adam Rogers spoke about some of the larger impacts and challenges that COVID-19 has had on planning summer programs as well as other events.
“The planning process usually starts in August, programs get put together, instructors lined up, so to see a lot of these programs be canceled is hard on me because a lot of work has went into these,” Mr. Rogers said.
He said there are so many moving parts that have been put on hold, but the biggest challenge right now is uncertainty. Once those guidelines for how to hold public events do roll in, he said it will be a different process altogether to evaluate the city’s resources and what it can do to make gatherings safe.
In other news, Mr. Sharpe told council that Chardon High School, in collaboration with the city and Chardon Police Department, is organizing a motorcade route to recognize the accomplishments of the graduating class of 2020 at 9 a.m. on May 23.
He explained that the line of vehicles will start in the student parking lot at the High School, then drive by the Middle School and the District’s Board of Education meeting room along North Street.
“So if anyone wants to support the seniors, that’s a good place to park and then there’s plenty of sidewalk where people can distance and wave and cheer on the senior class,” he said.
Director of Public Service Paul Hornyak shared a few statistics from Chardon’s first in-house brush collection. He said that his three-man crew, one or two people less than the contractor’s crew, took only six days to do the work and received good feedback from a few residents, who commented that the cleanup was better than what the contractor has done.
This could open the door to potential cost savings down the road, as having an internal team of three working 8-hour shifts to dispose of brush is far more efficient than the alternative, external crews of four or five working 10-12 hour shifts. He said employees will only get faster at the work as they complete five more brush pickups before the end of the season.
Mr. Hornyak also provided an update on the second phase of the Maple Highlands Trail extension project: now that crews have installed water and sanitary sewer lines for the trailhead restrooms, topsoil stripping can begin. He did not offer any revised information on the project’s timeframe.
The COVID-19 pandemic actually presents a good opportunity to rehabilitate the Gazebo in the Square, Mr. Hornyak added. He said that Ayrshire, Inc. construction company of Chardon has committed greatly to provide materials to help complete the construction; he didn’t have a final dollar amount for Council at the meeting, but it will be under $100,000.
Mr. Sharpe added that all the City’s public walkways are currently open to residents who want to go out and traverse the Maple Highlands, Buckeye and Chardon Memorial Trails. “Everyone’s welcome to be using them,” he said.