Community officials form alliance during COVID-19 crisis
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the idea of unity has been a main objective of many municipalities. With similar goals in place during these unprecedented times, Columbiana Mayor Bryan Blakeman announced Thursday the discussion of a newly formed alliance of municipal governments within Columbiana County.
About three weeks ago, East Liverpool Mayor Greg Bricker started a conference call with Blakeman, Salem Mayor John Berlin and Lisbon Mayor Peter Wilson. Since then, the weekly call has expanded to mayors, city managers and safety-service directors of the four communities plus Leetonia and East Palestine.
“Our idea is based on information sharing,” Blakeman said. “We’d like to make decisions together at the health level as much as possible, so the expectations are not different five miles down the road.”
While the individual communities have unique strengths of their own, Blakeman likes the idea of sharing different perspectives, ideas, issues and successes on the serious issues everyone is facing. One item that has grown from the discussions is the hope to speak to their individual communities as one voice, with one message.
Due to the differences in statutory vs. charter governments, there will be times when the messaging won’t be exact. However, when possible, the group has a desire for their residents to understand that the county is all in this together. They believe that providing a shared and unified message can bring some calm to the storm.
The communities of East Liverpool, Salem, Lisbon, Columbiana, Leetonia and East Palestine have taken a stance on whether to name the individuals that may come down with the virus or not. When asked about the individuals in those communities, the alliance’s unified message will be to direct everyone to contact the county health department.
“When it comes to the health side of things, we want it coming from the county health department,” Blakeman said. “They are the experts at this. I don’t want to give somebody a blatantly different opinion on something than what the health department would come out a day later and say. We can’t speak any better than the professionals.”
Blakeman said that the alliance would welcome other local governments in Columbiana County to join. As the epidemic continues to expand, the alliance will give regular updates with a unified message.
“The more ideas that you have, and the more people willing to work with one another, the better,” Blakeman said. “We’re still doing things on our own, but the more information we share and the more brain power we have will create more benefits county-wide.”