Fairfield City Council meeting open tonight despite building closure

The public will be permitted to attend the Fairfield City Council’s work session and regular business meeting this evening, which starts at 5:30 p.m. in council chambers, even though the city building is closed to the public during the day.

“We’ve made some changes and adaptions for the meeting because of the governor’s orders and the coronavirus issues that are going on,” said Mayor Steve Miller. “I think it’s still important to have the meeting. A lot of people are still going to work, a lot of people in the city building are still working, and I think council should also go to work.”

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Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has ordered the closure of many non-essential businesses and organizations since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, earlier this month.

Local governments are still operational, and employees are reporting for work, though Fairfield City Manager Mark Wendling has barred the public from city buildings, and all park activities are canceled as the virus pandemic spreads across the region and state.

“I think we need to take precautions, and I think those are being made, and with those precautions or with those changes in effect, I think we should be fine,” said Miller. “We’ll go about doing our jobs and taking care of the city’s business.”

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost issued a letter to local governments concerning public meeting laws, which require meetings to be held where the public can attend. However, many were concerned with the rapid spread of COVID-19, and Yost said, “(T)here may be a basis for local public bodies to use electronic means to meet and comply with the law.”

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Many local governments have streamed meetings online for the public to watch. Fairfield streams its 7 p.m. bi-monthly meeting on its website, but not the work session before the business meeting. On Monday, the work session is expected to be streamed online. To watch the meeting online, visit Fairfield-City.org.

As of Friday, there were 169 confirmed cases of COVID-19, eight of which are in Butler County. One person has died related to the virus, according to Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton.

The city has also established a "City of Fairfield Coronavirus Response" page that provides statewide and local information and resources.

Miller said it has been “an incredibly unique and trying” past several days for the state and country.

“We’ve never encountered anything like this before,” he said.

He said many Fairfield restaurants need the public’s help to stay afloat as dine-in services are barred for the time being.

“I would just encourage people to support local business as best they can as they continue to practice social distancing and to stay at home,” said Miller, who’s been patronizing local restaurants.

Fairfield’s work session starts at 5:30 p.m. Monday, and the regular meeting starts at 7:30 p.m.

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