By Lauren Zeugner
Syracuse Town Council passed a resolution closing Lakeside Park and Hoy’s Beach for the Fourth of July weekend during its regular monthly meeting held via Zoom Tuesday evening, June 16.
Councilman Larry Siegel asked Chad Jonsson, park superintendent, how the park being closed will be enforced. Jonsson explained street barricades and snow fencing will be installed, the picnic tables will be moved into the pavilion and the restrooms will be locked to discourage people from gathering in the park.
“They’re still going to go in,” said Councilman Tom Hoover. Siegel suggested any signage installed regarding the parks being closed should also be in Spanish. Police Chief Jim Layne said officers will be making frequent patrols by the parks and will ask anyone in the parks to leave.
The challenge will be around 9-9:30 p.m. July 3 when people will want to gather to see the fireworks.
Council President Paul Stoelting said he is concerned about insurance liability and people understand the risk they are taking. “They’re assuming their own risk when they trespass onto our property,” he said.
The council then passed an amendment to the vendor permit ordinance. Vendors participating in the Syracuse-Wawasee Chamber of Commerce’s Last Friday event will have their permits waived for that specific event.
In department reports, Mike Noe, town manager, reported Pulver Asphalt Paving is in town doing both street and sidewalk work and will be in town until the end of June. He requested permission to have Pulver pave Front Street for a cost of $14,900 and Pickwick Drive from Harkless to the bridge for $22,041. Pulver will adjust the pitch on Pickwick so when it rains, water will drain into the ditch rather than flooding the street. Both jobs should be completed by Aug. 1. The council approved having Pulver Asphalt and Paving do the additional work.
Two of the three engineering reports are in for the new baseball field. One appraisal has been turned in and a second is expected early next week. Stoelting asked if a special meeting needed to be held to approve both reports or could they wait until the July council meeting. After discussion it was determined the Syracuse Redevelopment Commission and the Syracuse Town Council will hold special meetings to approve the reports so the town could move forward on the closing.
In the police report, Stoelting asked Layne about the training he had listed on his report. Layne explained when the state shut down a lot of the department’s mandated training was cancelled. Officers were able to do 55 hours of training online, but have not had any hands-on training in the last few months.
Layne told the council he expected grants and other training requirements will be coming from the federal government in the near future.
The new camera system was installed Tuesday, June 16, in the police department’s interview room. The department did receive a grant for gas masks. Layne explained these are to provide a bit more protection for officers from biologicals such as the coronavirus. They are also harder for someone to pull off than a typical mask.
Layne pointed out COVID-19 cases are going up in Kosciusko County but the department is trying to get back to normal with precautions such as masks and hand sanitizer.
Councilman Larry Martindale asked how many COVID-19 are in Syracuse. Layne said he wasn’t sure, but noted Elkhart County’s cases “are going through the roof.”
Hoover asked how mandatory mask wearing could be enforced. Layne said it would be difficult. Siegel noted enforcement seems to be done more by the general public through public shaming.
In the parks department report, Jonsson, told the council a number of projects had been completed around the community center. The Mudtastic Classic will be held Saturday, June 20. Registration is full with about 200 participants. Social distancing will be encouraged during the event.
The community center is open and staff are trying to follow the rules as to what can be open and when to keep people safe. There haven’t been too many visitors. It is recommended those stopping by the community center wear masks. Jonsson noted staff are wearing masks and shields have been installed to better protect staff from the public.
Fire Chief Mickey Scott noted COVID-19 cases are increasing in Kosciusko County. Those interested can check out the state website and plug in their ZIP code to see how many cases have been reported in their area.
Scott noted people are not social distancing as they should. Fire and EMS personnel do regular temperature checks and answer questions about their health every time they come on duty. They make sure to wear personal protective equipment and treat every patient as if they are positive for the virus.
Scott is also working with a coalition made up of fire departments in the county, health department personnel to talk about issues such as PPE. The fire department is also in constant contact with the Centers for Disease Control, Federal Emergency Management Agency as well as local health department staff and hospital administrators.
The county is working on a P25 radio system which will improve the emergency radio system by increasing broadband. The project will take two-three years to complete.
The fire marshal and fire department approved permits for professional fireworks to be displayed July 3-4. Scott explained the department thought this would be safer than risk residents attempting to shoot off their own fireworks and possibly getting injured or starting a fire.
The fire department’s annual Fourth of July pork chop fundraiser will be held July 4. It will be drive through only. Pork chops and chicken will be $6 while corn on the cob will be $1.
The council discussed the budget calendar and noted the 2021 budget will be tighter due to reductions in income tax, sales tax and Economic Development Income Tax due to the shutdown.
The council also approved having Paula Kehr-Wicker cut checks for two payouts and one change order for the Community Crossings Grant.
The clerk-treasurer’s office is now open to the public. Those coming in to do business are asked to wash their hands and wear a mask if they wish.