The city of Bexley is limiting attendance at public meetings and is restricting public access to city buildings on an appointment-only basis as the state responds to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler announced n March 15 that one of the confirmed coronavirus cases in Ohio was a Bexley resident and the city would assemble a COVID-19 Task Force of city and public-health officials and representatives of local businesses and organizations.
"Our success will be determined by our resolve to take quick, decisive and early action," Kessler said in a news release. "The concern is that those actions which today might seem overly bold could, tomorrow, seem like not enough."
Kessler issued a March 15 mayoral proclamation and series of executive orders stipulating that Bexley City Hall, 2242 E. Main St., would be open during normal business hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Fridays.
However, doors will be locked and the public should call 614-559-4200 or email to reach staff. Staff email addresses are available on the city's website, bexley.org.
On March 17, Kessler added more orders to his proclamation based on a March 13 letter that Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost sent to municipalities, according to the city website.
"Based upon restrictions of gatherings enacted by Ohio Department of Health director Dr. Amy Acton, there may be exceptions to certain elements of Ohio's Open Meetings Act during the very limited condition of the COVID-19 outbreak," the city's website states. "Based upon this letter and guidance, all public meetings of the city of Bexley may be held via electronic means, with no members of any board, commission, or public body required to be physically present if the following conditions are met: that a quorum, whether physically or electronically or a combination of both, exists at the commencement of the meeting and at any time a vote is taken; that all reasonable steps be taken for the public to have access to an audio and/or video stream of the meeting during the time that it is taking place; that efforts be made to facilitate public feedback at and/or or before the meeting; that audio of the meeting is available for public inspection subsequent to the meeting taking place."
Kessler's executive orders also gives the Bexley Police Department the authority to disperse gatherings of more than 10 people.
At Bexley City Council's March 10 meeting -- the most recent meeting before the federal and state government guidelines that discouraged gatherings of more than 10 people -- council members voted unanimously to approve a resolution declaring Bexley will always hold Independence Day festivities on July 4, regardless of which day the holiday falls on.
City officials have not said whether this year's Independence Day celebration would go on as planned.
Kessler and City Council president Lori Ann Feibel said city officials have discussed for several years how best to handle the Independence Day celebration when July 4 falls on a Saturday or Sunday. Until now, they said, the city had an informal practice of shifting Independence Day festivities to July 5 when the holiday fell on a Sunday, but keeping the celebration on July 4 when it fell on a Saturday.
In anticipation of July 4 falling on Saturday this year, city officials held meetings over the past few months with local clergy and the Bexley Celebrations Association, which organizes the city's Independence Day celebration, and came to the solution outlined in Resolution 02-20, Kessler said.
"Over the past four to six years, we've been talking about how to handle this in a way that engages the community, invites dialogue and discussion and has an equitable solution for everybody," Kessler said.
Feibel said the resolution stipulates only the day Independence Day will be observed, not the time, which gives event organizers leeway to plan festivities around religious services.
"It does give us flexibility to change, to continue to listen to our faith communities," she said.
For updates on the city's COVID-19 response, go to bexley.org.