As Solon City Hall gets set to open next month, officials discussed the possibility of installing partitions at the dais.
Councilwoman and vice mayor Nancy E. Meany asked council members to weigh in on the possibility of physical barriers between council chairs and generally how they would like to proceed with the opening of City Hall.
An option would be to install partitions between their chairs at a cost of $250 each. A total of 10 would be needed.
The state closed down public buildings, businesses and schools in mid-March to slow the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus COVID-19. Ohio began a slow re-opening process in May with health guidelines such as wearing masks, installing physical barriers for social distancing of 6 feet and encouraging proper hand sanitizing.
Mrs. Meany said she wants everyone to feel comfortable with whatever way they proceed. Council could continue conducting virtual meetings through Zoom.
“We are testing waters to see how things work,” she said, adding that it must be done in a safe manner.
Councilman Robert N. Pelunis said the city is in a position where its revenues are down and to spend money on partitions “is inappropriate in my opinion.”
He said things can continue the way they have been, with some officials staying at home and participating virtually and two to three others coming to City Hall and sitting at a distance at the dais.
“The partitions are not going to solve anything or make sense,” Mr. Pelunis said. The only way to do things safely are with social distancing, he added.
Mrs. Meany said she is not sure how partitions will be effective. “The minute you lean forward, the barriers are not going to do anything.”
She questioned the benefits of barriers or partitions.
Councilman Robert Shimits agreed that the $2,500 is not an expenditure he would like to make at this time as it is temporary. “Or it may not work as we intended it to,” he said. “I don’t see it as a benefit.”
Councilman Eugene Macke Bentley said the barriers would only cover where they are sitting and will be a waste of money.
Also, Mr. Bentley said that he agrees with the recommendation of Fire Chief Mark Vedder to continue to wear masks once the building opens.
“If we require others to wear masks, we should model the behavior we expect of others,” Mr. Bentley said.
Mayor Edward H. Kraus said that he will let council decide the way they want to proceed as City Hall gets set to open. There is still a 10-person limit per state guidelines for gatherings, he noted.
Solon’s method of conducting business through the pandemic has been working well, the mayor said. “Some come in person and others participate by Zoom,” he said. “It’s actually worked out pretty well.”
He said that when the building opens to the public, he will make sure there is a partition for the front desk secretary so she is not put in jeopardy.
“We have to abide by state’s requirements,” Mayor Kraus said, adding that the public is not in a rush to come to meetings.
“The virus is still here and around us, especially indoors,” he said. “We are not going to open unless it’s safe.”