March 2020 You know the old adage, \u201cIt takes a village\u201d? Well, the Town of Zionsville is taking that adage to heart. As the weeks unfurl in these precarious times and while many surrounding communities are operating on skeleton crews and minimal city\/town services, Zionsville\u2019s municipality is proud to say, \u201cWe are open for business.\u201d And though the doors to town hall were formally closed to the public on March 12, 2020, in a joint video announcement with ZCS Superintendent Dr. Scott Robison, the town\u2019s department heads and members of their staffs are working earnestly on our behalf. A Word from Mayor Emily Styron Mayor Styron and her management team have been collaborating and communicating at unprecedented levels with the intent to keep the essential functions of local government operating smoothly throughout the COVID-19 situation. \u201cThe town created an internal emergency management team focused on the coronavirus COVID-19 situation on March 10,\u201d Styron stated. \u201cOn March 12 at 5 p.m., Zionsville closed Town Hall and all nonpublic safety Town facilities. At this time, we will be closed through April 6, but we are continuing to evaluate the situation and will adjust as needed to meet the needs of our community.\u201d Styron continued, \u201cWe partnered with our school system on this decision who moved instruction to exclusively online for the duration of . We were able to move our permitting and planning operation to an online submission and review process. We are holding online Nature Center classes as well. We have encouraged the public to get out into nature but not through organized sport activities and to maintain the recommended social distancing protocols. We have a majority of our personnel working remotely and some essential staff on-site\u2014still working to maintain social distancing protocols. We are taking all of this one step at a time and working to keep as much moving forward as possible.\u201d Director of Communications and Community Relations Amanda Vela added, \u201cRight away, IT coordinated with department heads to ensure staff had what they needed in terms of technology to work remotely. IT ensured staff were adequately connected to the server and\/or their documents, ensured main telephone lines were routed and shared with the public and ensured essential staff had laptops and\/or cell phones\u2014among other things.\u201d Vela continued, \u201cInternally, IT and all departments immediately began taking steps to ensure the Town can continue to provide the highest quality of service during these extraordinary circumstances. As circumstances evolve, we continue to evaluate our plans, processes and services while keeping the safety and health of the community and our employees a priority.\u201d Planning on Adding On or Building That Deck? Now that we all have some extra time on our hands, you may be thinking about initiating a project that necessitates a permit or interaction with the town\u2019s Planning and Economic Development Department. Wayne DeLong, director of planning and economic development, confirmed that his department is operating and functional by way of modern technology as well as by implementing rather unorthodox solutions to ensure that its customers are being served in these most challenging times. \u201cTo get a baseline understanding of what we are doing, you can look at the FAQs that we have on the website,\u201d DeLong shared. \u201cEverything we are doing has gone remote and virtual. You can simply scan and send us a copy of your permit application and you can mail us your fees associated with that permit or you can also drop the funds in the utility drop box at town hall.\u201d While there is no \u201creal-time\u201d system to accept an application at this time, DeLong emphasized that the department\u2019s staff is rotating throughout the week\u2014no more than two people in their office at a time, per COVID-19-related protocols. \u201cWe\u2019ve issued several permits already [since the formal closing of town hall offices], and we continue to receive permit applications,\u201d DeLong said. \u201cWe\u2019ve even had Planning Commission filings occur\u2014virtually\u2014so we\u2019re still moving those forward. And while there\u2019s nobody sitting in the parking lot at town hall waiting to be handed things on a random schedule, if an application requires large plans that can\u2019t be mailed or it\u2019s impossible to email us the materials, we do have a drop location in our parking lot\u2014a designated pickup truck\u2014where people can arrange to drop off their things during the day, and our staff will retrieve those from the truck. We don\u2019t have a regular schedule, so you will have to contact our office to make these arrangements ahead of time.\u201d Additionally, DeLong mentioned that the town\u2019s building inspectors are still out in the field every day. \u201cWe are still facilitating inspections,\u201d DeLong said. \u201cOur staff members are working remotely out of their vehicles with independent technology that we\u2019ve provided them. The data feeds back to a database that we built several years ago. The inspectors can move freely about the community\u2014doing their jobs\u2014and have access to all the code books and resources. This moves the ball forward for our customers and constituents this way.\u201d Zionsville Fire Department (ZFD) Remains Fully Operational Zionsville Fire Chief James VanGorder assured us that the town\u2019s fire department is still operational, even if it\u2019s operating behind closed bay doors. \u201cTypically, one would see the firehouse bay doors open, and we would have people walking by and visiting with the firefighters,\u201d VanGorder said. \u201cIt is a different day, so the doors may be closed, and we are\u2014currently\u2014not allowing tours of the fire stations, but that's out of an abundance of caution to make sure that the emergency responders are healthy, are taken care of and are safe and ready to respond when they are truly needed.\u201d According to VanGorder, the department has changed several internal protocols in adaptation of today\u2019s current climate, and its public educator, Vincent Randolph, has been working on some social media and public interactions with our community\u2019s youth and families. \u201cOur town is still operating,\u201d VanGorder emphasized. \u201cWe are still conducting routine fire inspections, making sure that fire hydrants are being tested appropriately, etc., to ensure that we have the safest community possible.\u201d VanGorder expressed his deep appreciation for the overwhelming support his department and all of the fire stations have been receiving since the COVID-19 public health and safety measures were implemented. \u201cI've had dozens of people reach out and ask what we need,\u201d VanGorder shared. \u201cWe\u2019re fine at this point, and we are humbled beyond belief by the outpouring of support. That\u2019s what makes great. We just need to make sure that we\u2019re doing that for all of our neighbors\u2014especially at this time.\u201d The Parks Department Aims to Entertain and Educate\u2014Virtually The town\u2019s park naturalist, Mindy Murdock, shared some ways that the Parks Department is serving the residents in accordance with the suggested social distancing restrictions. \u201cWhile the nature center\u2014as a facility\u2014is closed, we have this huge range of programs that we had set up through spring break, and so I\u2019ve been figuring out ways to set up these programs and create new programs online,\u201d Murdock shared. \u201cI\u2019ve been offering programming online and on Facebook Live. The first one we featured was a snake program, and we had such great feedback from it. So, as it stands, my goal is to offer these online\/Facebook Live programs on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays up until April and possibly continuing beyond that. I\u2019m looking at programs that I can do inside as well as outside in the parks and will try to do a few hands-on things that people can do at home as well.\u201d When asked if venturing out in the parks is permitted and encouraged, Murdock stressed, \u201cThe parks and trails are open, and so as long as you are practicing social distancing, get outside and see what\u2019s going on around you.\u201d For updates from the Town of Zionsville, department information and COVID-19 updates, visit the town\u2019s website at zionsville-in.gov. Follow Zion Nature Center on Facebook for live programs.