During Monday's meeting of Ottawa's village council members and village officials took steps to reduce potential coronavirus contagion - Putnam Sentinel
During Monday's meeting of Ottawa's village council members and village officials took steps to reduce potential coronavirus contagion. (Putnam Sentinel/Steven Coburn-Griffis)

OTTAWA — To the same degree as what Ottawa Council did during their Monday meeting, how the meeting was conducted was equally noteworthy.

Everyone entering Ottawa’s Municipal Building for the 7:30 p.m. meeting discovered a small, square table on which sat a hand sanitizer dispenser, a bundle of foil wrapped alcohol wipes, and a cluster of digital thermometers still in their boxes. Each council member, village employee, and guest in attendance took their temperatures and washed their hands before making their way upstairs to council chambers. There, the room was arranged so as to, more or less, comply with social distancing protocols necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Chairs for visitors were widely spaced and each councilor had a small desk to themselves. Sitting at her desk before the meeting was called to order, Councilor Jo Deskins stretched out her arm toward Council President Dave Michels who sat to her left.

“That’s not quite six feet,” she asserted before settling back into place.

Recently seated Councilor Matthew Black had no such concerns. Usually flanked by Councilors Jeff Ducey and Thomas “Duffer” Rosenbauer, Black sat alone as both men chose to teleconference in for the meeting. Taking the same opportunity — afforded at the suggestion of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost — Village Solicitor Joe Schroeder also remotely attended the meeting.

Addressing this peculiarity, Mayor Dean Meyer said it was part of the ongoing effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

“We’ll probably keep this up for as long as the Governor’s request is out there,” Meyer said.

With roll call announced and answered, council addressed its first significant matter of business, a proposed contract with the Putnam County YMCA to — as it has in years past — to manage the village’s municipal pool.

In raising the resolution, Mayor Dean Meyer said, “I do have a question on this. What happens if the pool doesn’t open until July?”

Addressing that question, Schroeder remarked the village will need to discuss pro-rating the contract to account for whatever period of time, if any, is excluded.

Without a clear course of action indicated, council tabled the motion, and directed Meyer and Clerk-Treasurer Barbara Hermiller to discuss the possibility with YMCA Director Aaron Baumgartner.

Council then briefly discussed progress on clean-up efforts at Pioneer Cemetery. Concerns about a general state of decay at the site were raised to council last month. At that time, council acknowledged its responsibility to the site, and directed that the site be rehabilitated. Since that time, initial efforts to eliminate brush and trees choking the site were undertaken.

“I was out there last Sunday and it looked phenomenal,” Black said. “Very impressive.”

As part of ongoing efforts, Schroeder assessed the area, planting yellow and blue flags to mark graves and markers.

“I’ve tried to color code things with blue flags back there being bases, like the base of a tombstone, and the yellow flags being markers or fragments of markers,” he explained. “So I think we’re starting to get a better idea of where the activity, or the majority of the activity, was back there in the cemetery.”

In the course of engaging in this work, Schroeder also said he made what was for him a startling discovery.

“A lot of the coffins have been dug up already,” he said. “I’m finding a lot of empty graves back there.”

Meyer and council commended Schroeder for his contribution.