Officials from the Borough of Fountain Hill are making necessary changes to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Borough Manager Tony Branco said the borough is working closely with its emergency management coordinator, and that officials are getting daily updates from the CDC and Johns Hopkins University.
Changes are being made to improve safety at Borough Hall, which currently houses six full-time borough employees.
“Here in the office we implemented a staggered work schedule,” Branco said. “We’re letting people work from home as much as possible.”
Branco said the borough office staff is doing its part to continually disinfect their desks, phones and door handles. Staff from the public works department, who are also working staggered shifts, are visiting Borough Hall three times daily to wipe down and disinfect the facility.
To promote social distancing, the office is currently closed to the public. Permits and zoning applications are being dealt with by appointment, email and phone for the time being, Branco said.
The Borough has also closed its playgrounds to prevent children from getting too close to one another while using them. Borough Council member Jamie Shiner Johnson announced on Facebook that swings have been taken down, and that basketball courts have been taped off by the police department.
Branco said the borough is keeping its walking trail open for now.
Fountain Hill is scheduled to hold a Borough Council Meeting on Monday, April 6 at 7 p.m.
Johnson has been live streaming council meetings and sharing other information on her Jamie Johnson for Fountain Hill Borough Council Facebook page, but council president Leo Atkinson said he is working on additional ways to give residents virtual access to the meeting.
Branco also announced that the borough’s yearly Arbor Day celebration will be canceled this year to help keep residents safe amid the coronavirus outbreak. Arbor Day is traditionally celebrated on or around the last Friday in April.
“We’re taking it day by day, and trying to keep our people and the public safe,” Branco said.
The Fountain Hill Police Department is also playing a role in maintaining safety and order within the borough.
Edward Bachert Jr., the borough’s police chief, said the police department is encouraging people to stay home in accordance with the state’s order.
Officers have occasionally been putting a table with food outside Borough Hall for residents to come and take what they need. Those in need may also call the police department, and they will do their best to deliver items to their door.
Bachert is also focused on protecting the borough’s first responders. Officers have been provided with masks, gloves and hand sanitizer to keep in their cars.
Officers will also be relaxing enforcement of parking violations, the Fountain Hill Police Officer Association announced on Facebook.
“We wanted to ease the burden on the citizens,” Bachert said. “We don’t want to hit them with fines in a time when they need money for something more important.”
The Police Officer Association announced on Facebook last month that officers will be issuing tickets to vehicles that “may cause a hazard or an unsafe condition for our residents.” Bachert clarified that the tickets are for people who park in front of a fire hydrant or show similar disregard for the safety of residents.
To Bachert’s knowledge, the department has not had to issue any such tickets, but he and his officers are continually working to protect the health and safety of borough residents.
The Fountain Hill Fire Department is responding to a unique challenge caused by the pandemic by trying to bring smiles to children who are currently unable to have birthday parties due to the requirements for social distancing.
In a post on the department’s Facebook page it announced last week that borough kids who have an upcoming birthday or one that just passed can receive a fire truck parade.
“If you are interested, please send us a message and we will set up a date and time. Be safe and wash your hands! Contact (us) via Facebook message or email only at email@example.com,” the post said.
The fire and police departments both participated in an appreciation parade down Ostrum Street for St. Luke’s Hospital staff that was held Saturday and met with grateful cheers. Below are videos of it filmed and shared from two different vantage points.