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East Palestine council will give Zoom a try

By SCOTT LENDAK

Staff Writer

EAST PALESTINE — After Monday’s village council meeting was canceled due to COVID-19, Village Manager Mark McTrustry said they are looking into an alternative way to have the meetings in April through technology.

Using Zoom, a video and audio communication platform, council will be able to conduct business remotely, while allowing the public to weigh in as well. While other municipalities have resorted to using Zoom, East Palestine will try the website as well, in an attempt to maintain social distancing, while not violating the Sunshine Law.

There were two pieces of legislation that were supposed to be addressed at Monday’s meeting, which included the legislation for the summer street paving. Councilman Alan Cohen expressed that he was actually relieved when the meeting was canceled due to the safety of everyone involved.

“I’m in agreement with the cancellation,” Cohen said. “Zoom could be a good solution if it allows public input. My attitude has always been to let the public speak during the meeting. I’ve always tried to give everybody a chance to talk. If someone is interested enough in what we are doing to take the time to come to council, they deserve an opportunity to speak.”

Law Director David Powers said that as long as council meets face-to-face through Zoom and the public has an opportunity to attend the meeting online, it complies directly with the law.

“Zoom is fine as long as it can be publicly aired, and there’s interaction,” Powers said. “Council passed legislation last week to allow for it, so I think under the circumstances it’s best for everybody concerned.”

In other business, the summer pavement project is ready to go, according to McTrustry. He also said the EQ Basin for the wastewater plant will be going out to bid within the next week to 10 days.

McTrustry added that he has been very impressed with the schools’ distribution of meals to students.

After serving 1,900 meals the first week of distribution, last week they served over 3,100 meals. During the first week, the staff was serving meals every day, but to limit contact and ensure social distancing, Superintendent Chris Neifer said they have dialed back to just Mondays and Thursdays, from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the middle school, at the Centenary United Methodist Church and the Negley United Methodist Church.

Every Sunday and Wednesday, before the pickup days, about eight people volunteer for four hours to make the meals for the upcoming day. Neifer said that with about seven people at each pick-up location, volunteers have been doing a great job.

“None of this would be possible without the amount of help we’ve been getting from willing volunteers,” Neifer said. “That’s all volunteer work and all staff that are coming in just to do the right thing.”

After the meals are made, bus drivers pick up the food and deliver them to the pickup sites. The janitors then come in after meal prep and delivery to clean all of the areas that were used.

In preparation for an extension on school closings, Neifer said they are planning to run bus routes to deliver additional packets, books, computers and other supplies to move forward to make sure to keep the education running smoothly.

slendak@mojonews.com

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