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Toronto receives $115,000 in federal coronavirus aid

PRECAUTIONS TAKEN — Toronto City Council members and other city officials wore masks on Monday at the first meeting since March in which they have gathered in person. Craig Allen, the city’s law director, also took the temperatures of everyone in attendance. -- Warren Scott

TORONTO — Toronto Council Monday authorized Mayor John Parker to use about $115,000 in funds awarded through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act for expenses related to the pandemic.

Parker said approved uses for the money have expanded since the act was approved by Congress and appear likely to do so again.

“The guidelines for this (money) keep changing every day,” he said.

But Parker said it may be used to cover the cost of personal protective equipment, cleaning products and wages earned by staff while disinfecting facilities and taking other measures to prevent spread of the virus.

He added it also may be used to offset utility payments waived for businesses and residents affected by Gov. Mike DeWine’s closing of businesses deemed non-essential in March and April.

The waiver has since been lifted, with the city’s water and sewer customers expected to pay their bills for June or face losing service.

Parker said the city has until October to expend the funds, with any unused funds allotted to the county’s cities and townships to be returned to the county auditor’s office to be divided and redistributed again.

He said he will meet with the city’s finance committee, set to meet at 6 p.m. July 27, to discuss expenses incurred by the city as a result of the pandemic.

The news came at the first meeting since March in which council and other city officials have met collectively.

To encourage social distancing, the panel had met by videoconference, with its meetings aired on Facebook.

On Monday most returned to council chambers of City Hall while wearing masks. In addition, Craig Allen, the city’s law director, took each attendee’s temperature and recorded their answers to three questions aimed at determining their exposure to the virus.

Allen said in light of recent spikes in COVID-19 cases, it seems likely such measures will be followed until at least October.

The pandemic also affected the city’s Independence Day fireworks display. To discourage a large gathering of people, the pyrotechnics were moved from the Toronto High School football stadium, where they normally followed live music.

But several on council said they received positive comments about this year’s fireworks, which were launched from a hill above the city in an effort to make them visible from many areas.

Some suggested using the same location next year.

Many other events organized around the holiday were canceled because of the pandemic.

Councilman at large Ron Holmes suggested residents could start making donations now for next year’s event.

Parker announced donations may be made to: Toronto Fourth of July Committee, P.O. Box 295, Toronto, OH 43964.

In related business, Fire Chief Bill Scheel expressed thanks to members of the Stratton and Knox Township volunteer fire departments who manned the city’s fire station while the city department positioned trucks at each end of the city in the event of an emergency.

Also on Monday, city Water Superintendent Tim Miller said lightning during Friday’s storm disabled electrical controls at the water plant and a claim has been filed with the city’s insurance provider.

Miller said no customers were without service in part because some are served through gravity flow and also due to the quick response of Chief Water Operator Gary Daugherty and Art Myers, an electrician at the plant.

Miller said the two and others worked through the weekend, including many hours on Friday night, to make temporary repairs until replacement parts can be delivered.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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