How West Chester, Liberty townships are reacting to coronavirus

The two largest townships in Butler County have locked their doors to the public but officials say business is still being conducted albeit not necessarily as usual.

Liberty Twp. locked its doors on Monday and about half the staff are working remotely, the rest are in the office on a weekly rotation. The administration center in West Chester Twp. was open on Tuesday because it was a polling place, but the doors were shut after the primary election was cancelled. All employees were still working, but officials said accommodations are being made for employees with special circumstances, like lack of daycare for their children.

West Chester Police Chief Joel Herzog said his officers are still patrolling the streets but are now all equipped with special suits to protect them. He said they are prepared for the worst.

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“If for some reason the illness starts hitting us we have a platoon deployment system we would implement,” Herzog said. “That will redirect employees from other areas of the department like detectives, traffic safety, community affairs and they would move out to uniform patrol, so even if we lost half our workforce we still would be able to maintain staffing.”

He said they continue to take police reports from people but are doing more of that via phone versus face-to-face, when it is not urgent.

Residents and businesses can reach West Chester staff via phone and through the website. Spokeswoman Barb Wilson said public safety departments will postpone non-essential public appearances, community outreach, facility tours and the like. The township parks are open, restrooms at Beckett Park are available and Keehner Park restrooms will be opened mid-April as usual.

Liberty Twp. Trustee Board President Christine Matacic said the township made the decision to isolate its staff late last week but all of their decisions are “ongoing” because the crisis keeps changing so rapidly.

“Once reality hit last week with having the virus here in Butler County it made it even more urgent for us to start taking action,” Matacic said.

The Parks Committee and Zoning Commission meetings that were scheduled for March 16 were cancelled. The trustees limited attendance at their meeting Tuesday to the elected officials and Administrator Kristen Bitonte, all the other key staffers who usually attend were kept away. All other meetings for township staff are being held via phone or postponed. The parks are open but restrooms locked.

Matacic said the fire department and sheriff’s deputies were operating “as close to normal as possible.”

“They have to respond but they also have to take precautions in their responses,” Matacic said. “They are on the front line with our residents and with our businesses, I don’t think any of us are operating normally right now.”

Matacic said as far as protective supplies for first responders go the township is well equipped for the short term. However, she cautioned that everyone should heed the governor’s and health officials warning to stay home and stop the spread.

“We have to take this very, very seriously. It’s going to be day by day, hour by hour, things will change in how we approach things,” she said. “We have to be on top of it all and be sure we are doing everything we can to protect our residents.”

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