The Town of Zionsville Is Still Open for Business
You know the old adage, “It takes a village”? 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’s municipality is proud to say, “We are open for business.”
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’s 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.
“The town created an internal emergency management team focused on the coronavirus COVID-19 situation on March 10,” Styron stated. “On 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.”
Styron continued, “We partnered with our school system [ZCS] on this decision who moved instruction to exclusively online for the duration of [this situation]. 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—still 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.”
Director of Communications and Community Relations Amanda Vela added, “Right 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—among other things.”
Vela continued, “Internally, 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.”
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’s 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.
“To get a baseline understanding of what we are doing, you can look at the FAQs that we have on the [town’s] website,” DeLong shared. “Everything we are doing has gone remote and virtual. You can simply scan and send us a copy of your [signed] 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.”
While there is no “real-time” system to accept an application at this time, DeLong emphasized that the department’s staff is rotating throughout the week—no more than two people in their office at a time, per COVID-19-related protocols.
“We’ve issued several permits already [since the formal closing of town hall offices], and we continue to receive permit applications,” DeLong said. “We’ve even had Planning Commission filings occur—virtually—so we’re still moving those forward. And while there’s 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’t be mailed or it’s impossible to email us the materials, we do have a drop location in our parking lot—a designated pickup truck—where people can arrange to drop off their things during the day, and our staff will retrieve those from the truck. We don’t have a regular schedule, so you will have to contact our office to make these arrangements ahead of time.”
Additionally, DeLong mentioned that the town’s building inspectors are still out in the field every day.
“We are still facilitating inspections,” DeLong said. “Our staff members are working remotely out of their vehicles with independent technology that we’ve provided them. The data feeds back to a database that we built several years ago. The inspectors can move freely about the community—doing their jobs—and have access to all the code books and resources. This moves the ball forward for our customers and constituents this way.”
Zionsville Fire Department (ZFD) Remains Fully Operational
Zionsville Fire Chief James VanGorder assured us that the town’s fire department is still operational, even if it’s operating behind closed bay doors.
“Typically, one would see the firehouse bay doors open, and we would have people walking by and visiting with the firefighters,” VanGorder said. “It is a different day, so the doors may be closed, and we are—currently—not 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.”
According to VanGorder, the department has changed several internal protocols in adaptation of today’s current climate, and its public educator, Vincent Randolph, has been working on some social media and public interactions with our community’s youth and families.
“Our town is still operating,” VanGorder emphasized. “We [ZFD] 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.”
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.
“I’ve had dozens of people reach out and ask what we need,” VanGorder shared. “We’re fine at this point, and we are humbled beyond belief by the outpouring of support. That’s what makes [Zionsville] great. We just need to make sure that we’re doing that for all of our neighbors—especially at this time.”
The Parks Department Aims to Entertain and Educate—Virtually
The town’s park naturalist, Mindy Murdock, shared some ways that the Parks Department is serving the residents in accordance with the suggested social distancing restrictions.
“While the nature center—as a facility—is closed, we have this huge range of programs that we had set up through spring break, and so I’ve been figuring out ways to set up these programs and create new programs online,” Murdock shared. “I’ve 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’m 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.”
When asked if venturing out in the parks is permitted and encouraged, Murdock stressed, “The parks and trails are open, and so as long as you are practicing social distancing, get outside and see what’s going on around you.”
For updates from the Town of Zionsville, department information and COVID-19 updates, visit the town’s website at zionsville-in.gov. Follow Zion Nature Center on Facebook for live programs.