WAPAKONETA — Tensions at times ran high in Auglaize County Wednesday morning as elected office-holders and the directors of various departments and agencies met to discuss how to conduct business-as-unusual in the wake of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.
Some office-holders were present in person and others took part in a conference call that originated from the office of the Auglaize County commissioners. The bulk of their questions revolved around county employees working from home.
It’s not as simple as some might imagine, according to county IT Specialist Cameron Ruppert.
“What we’ve got are a handful of offices that desire to have their entire staff work from home, if we get to that point,” Ruppert said to kick off the conference call. “And we’re getting to a critical set of numbers.”
The tech specialist said the county has licenses that limit to 50 the number of county employees who can be connected to the county’s server at any one time. “And we’ve got 71 people who are wanting to work from home. We need to whittle that list down,” Ruppert said, asking the officials to re-evaluate their wish lists and to be “creative” in figuring how to best carry out their respective duties.
As individual office-holders joined the conversation, topics began to broaden — from the cost of purchasing additional licenses to sharing county bandwidth on an allotment basis to the constitutionally mandated requirements of various offices. Judges were especially concerned about proposed limits to their computer access, until or unless the Ohio Supreme Court authorizes courts to temporarily suspend operations.
Common Pleas/Probate/Domestic Relations Court Judge Mark Spees, for instance, said the issuance of marriage licenses is “constitutionally protected and we have to issue those whether we’re open or closed. I know it’s stupid, but ….”
“Yes, it is stupid,” said Prosecuting Attorney Edwin Pierce, “but we’re talking about 18 different things here. What the commissioners are trying to look at is a worst-case scenario when everything shuts down. I’m just trying to get everyone talking about apples vs. apples and not apples, bananas and oranges.”
When the matter of limited computer access arose, most agreed with Auditor Janet Schuler that bi-weekly payroll functions should have priority.
“We have gone to great lengths to make sure everybody will be paid. We can’t be competing for bandwidth,” she said.
Ruppert asked each county office-holder to prepare a list of the minimum number of people who could work from home and still keep their respective offices functioning.
“If everybody draws up a list we’ll see what it looks like. I’m just trying to get an idea of what we’re facing,” he said.
Some officials asked about the availability of spare laptop computers, scanners and printers, only to learn that supplies are extremely limited.
“I’m close to being out of extra laptops and I don’t stock spare scanners or printers. Those would need to be purchased,” Ruppert said.
The county commissioners on Tuesday issued a blanket resolution that authorizes special board meetings to be convened on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday through April 15 as the county works its way through the health emergency.
“This is definitely a very fluid situation, and we’re making modifications day-by-day and hour-by-hour,” said Commissioner Doug Spencer. “Individual office-holders have a lot of latitude to make their own decisions, but right now we’re just trying to keep everybody in the same boat.”
The Auglaize County Administrative Office building is open for scheduled appointments only and activities at the county courthouse are limited to scheduled appointments and essential hearings. Jury trials in common pleas court have been suspended through the end of April.
The St. Marys Municipal Court West office is opening for scheduled appointments, hearings and trials. Judge Andrew Augsburger in a statement issued Tuesday said trials, plea changes and motion hearings may be held at the discretion of the court.
The county Job and Family Services and Auglaize County Means Jobs offices are currently closed to the public, except for scheduled appointments. Drop boxes have been established at both buildings. The County Engineer’s office is likewise closed to the public, as is the county recycling center north of St. Marys. Residents are urged to use local drop-off centers for their recycling needs.
Meetings of the Allen County board of commissioners have been closed to the public until further notice. Meetings will be broadcast on Facebook Live on the “Allen County Board of Commissioners” page. During those meetings residents may contact the board at https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/67466149.
The Allen County Engineer’s office has been closed to the public through at least April 6. In case of an emergency, the public may call 911 or 419-227-3535.
Effective Thursday, the Allen County Treasurer’s Office will not accept in-person property tax or sewer payments. Payments may be made by check or online via credit card. The office is also limiting daily business hours to 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. until further notice.
“While we do not have an end date to these changes, they will likely extend through the duration of the national crisis,” said Treasurer Evalyn Shaffner.
City of Lima
Mayor David Berger on Wednesday said the city will follow a Pandemic Protocol to minimize the impact of the coronavirus on city employees while enhancing the availability of personnel and resources to meet the public’s demands.
Public access to city buildings will be limited, effective immediately, with exceptions being the Lima Police Department and Lima Municipal Courts. City employees have been instructed to minimize personal meetings and conduct business via telephone or internet tools.
Berger also announced the temporary suspension of issuance of special gathering permit, the ECCO After-school program and the utilities customer service office at 424 N. Central Ave. Utility payments may be made via a drop box outside, mailed or paid online or at 1-855-973-1210. The city is also postponing turning off water service of customers with delinquent accounts.
Lima City Council President John Nixon has implemented a procedural change to the March 23 meeting of Lima City Council, in consultation with Law Director Anthony Geiger. Citizens are encouraged to watch the televised broadcast of the meeting on GTV-2 and refrain from attending in person.