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Wintersville officials respond to virus

WINTERSVILLE — In an effort to deter the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Wintersville officials are adjusting the work schedules of village staff.

Mayor Bob Gale outlined such steps during a telephone conference call Tuesday involving other council members and village officials.

Gale said last week, with input from other village officials, he called for its offices to be closed and last week’s council meeting and this month’s municipal court to be canceled.

The mayor said he did so because he was concerned about the public and the village’s staff being exposed to the virus.

He said since then, Walt Ziemba, the village’s administrator; and its financial officer and code enforcement officer have been instructed to work from home.

Gale said village departments will be manned with minimal staff to further reduce the potential for the virus to spread.

He said sufficient staff will be on hand in the water and sewer departments to ensure equipment is operating properly and perform required testing, while others have been placed on call in the event a line break or other emergency should occur.

He said sanitation crews will continue to collect garbage as scheduled but will return home afterward.

Village Police Chief Art Fowler said his department will be fully staffed and continue to patrol all areas of the village “extremely hard.”

Gale said he and others will consider whether to proceed with the April 9 municipal court session.

He said council’s April 2 meeting has been moved to April 16, at which time he and others will consider whether to include guests. The mayor said he will look into arranging a phone number by which the public could address council during the meeting while noting council can accept letters and calls with requests or concerns for its consideration then.

Individuals can call (740) 264-7171 for questions involving water, sewer and sanitation, and (740) 266-3175 for a building permit or license or other issues.

For non-emergency matters for the police department, call (740) 266-4150.

Gale said late payment notices have been sent to delinquent utility customers as a reminder but because a state emergency has been declared, no shut-offs will occur this month.

“I encourage residents to pay if they can,” he said, noting utility payments, police fines and other payments can be mailed to the village.

Anticipating a drop in revenue from temporarily shuttered businesses, Gale said he and others are looking at ways to cut costs and he’s instructed department heads to limit spending to essential purchases.

He said he’s also ended the village’s salt contract for this year, a move he said entailed a $1,575 penalty but will save the village $35,000 and still leave its salt bin three-fourths full at the start of next winter.

Gale expressed thanks to residents for their patience during this difficult time.

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