City Business Continues With Skeleton Staff

During the Vermilion City Council Meeting on Monday, April 13, 2020, Mayor Forthofer reported that the city government is providing regular services but with a skeleton staff.

“City Hall is closed to the public and pretty much empty,” stated the mayor. “Departments have been moved to homework to minimize exposure. Only department heads remain in City Hall. Water, wastewater, and streets are on a skeleton staff.”

According to the mayor, City Boards and Commissions will conduct business via remote.

A recent Port Authority meeting took place online through Zoom.

“Other boards and commissions will continue meeting as building projects need review, variances need review, our parks need to be ready for the public, our docks and waterfront need organization by our Port Authority,” said the mayor. “With the help of the remote service established by IT Director Pozywak, Amy Hendricks, and Gwen Fisher our boards and commissions will continue to do City business on behalf of the residents. It may be a little rough as we get use to technology, but we will get done what is necessary until things change.”

Tony Valerius, Service Director, updated Council on the impact of COVID-19 as it relates to the city service employees. Atthis time, staffing has been reduced to 50% at all departments during the day, and the employees are performing all the duties necessary in providing the citizens with essential services. If an emergency arises, all employees would be expected to respond, as any employee who is not at work is on call during normal working hours.

Valerius announced that the Building Department will be receiving tablets by month's end which will allow them to become more efficient in the way building and property maintenance inspections are processed from the field. This complements the newly launched online portal which allows contractors the ability to register, apply for permits, and request inspections via the Building Department website. Homeowners will also have the same ability in applying for building and zoning permits through the portal as well.

Vermilion's Downtown Restaurants, bars, and non-essential businesses are closed per the State order, “though a brisk restaurant take out business was done at the beginning,” stated Mayor Forthofer. “Our businesses are examining applicable Federal and State assistance. In general, the business owners I talk to are either hanging on, renovating during this shutdown, or planning for an aggressive reopening.”

The mayor noted that demolition activity is occurring at the corner of West River and Liberty at the old convenience store.

“The property owner and I have been in discussions for almost a year about this property being renovated inside and out and made into a much more appealing upscale food retail,” said the mayor. “It should help brighten up that highly visible entry into downtown from the east.”

According to the mayor, Vermilion's business growth along the eastern Liberty Avenue corridor continues as planned. “Coley's CNC Manufacturing operates as an essential business in its newly expanded facility on Liberty Avenue. Defense Soap, in their brand-new headquarters on Liberty, is busy fulfilling an avalanche of orders for its coronavirus killing sanitation products. Vintage Crossing is still looking forward to expansion of its new headquarters this year, as does George's Roofing in its new headquarters. Shoreline Village is pushing ahead with approximately 50 new apartments across from the Farm Market and Vintage Crossing.”

Building permits are up YTD +12% residential, +6% commercial. Site preparation has begun on Devon and Douglas for the new Fire House #1. A November completion is still expected, according to the mayor.

The mayor stated he has daily complaints about essential businesses, and questions about why the Mayor isn’t cracking down on one business or another.

“The Erie County Health Department determines which businesses are essential,” said the mayor. “I am in touch with the Erie County Health Department or the Governor's hotline seven days a week. Each business questioned by the public is currently allowed to operate under guidelines which contain a lot of grey area. The Administration will enforce obvious violations of the Health Department's interpretation of essential.”