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COVID Again Hits City Workforce

Mayor Eddie Sundquist is pictured during Monday's City Council discussing the city's upcoming giveaway of at-home COVID-19 tests. P-J photo by John Whittaker

Mayor Eddie Sundquist is asking for patience as city departments deal with a rising number of COVID-19 cases.

The city had limited plowing crews available over the weekend when some city streets became icy while the city is also seeing increased overtime in the police and fire departments. Dave Leathers, BPU general manager, also noted several COVID cases in the BPU’s customer service office and solid waste collection department.

“Similar to what we are seeing in the community, city of Jamestown employees have also experienced in increase in COVID infection. So, we want to advise the council that places like our Public Works Department does have an increase in the number of COVID cases as well as our police and our fire (departments). So we are trying our best to maintain things especially during difficult times such as the snow which you see outside. We’re working around the clock, we have employees working longer shifts in order to make up for some of those things. We ask that as you all field questions from residents as well as the public to be patient as we work through it just as every other company is working through it as well.”

Leathers detailed some of the BPU’s issues during a lengthy discussion of garbage collection that has generated complaints to council members and Sundquist’s office during the holidays.

“I do apologize,” Leathers said in regard to complaints about the BPU’s garbage collection policies around the holidays. “We are going through a few positive cases of COVID within our customer service and solid waste division so hasn’t helped this recent eight-day period that we’re moving through. Our responsiveness to our customers hasn’t been where our bar is related to working with our customers to try to help them through these issues.”

The Jamestown Police Department was already dealing with staffing issues without COVID-19 adding to the problem. Tim Jackson, city police chief, talked about the issue during the council’s Public Safety Committee. Brent Sheldon, R-Ward 1 and Public Safety Committee chairman, told the council that there were already four vacancies in the department. Now there are six officers out with COVID-19 as well as one officer who has been placed on light duty, two who are off on a no-duty restriction and one officer who is deployed for military service.

“This has really led to an increase in overtime,” Sheldon said. “There is a current (civil service) list. There are academy members set to graduate sometime in February. There are two good candidates there that we know of who live in the city. There are other candidates on the list who we’re not sure if they’ve been to the academy, so the chief will be investigating that further.”

The city of Jamestown will start giving away 500 rapid COVID test kits at five sites starting Wednesday.

Mayor Eddie Sundquist said Monday the city has received the tests from Chautauqua County through a state Department of Homeland Security initiative. Each site will receive 100 test kits and remain open until all are given out. Each resident may pick up one test kit, which includes two tests. Masks, hand sanitizer, and information about COVID will be included for each resident.

“The school district, as you know, has already received its own allocation of tests as well as various not-for-profits, congregate settings and others who have their own kits,” Sundquist said. “We will be having five different sites where folks can either walk up or drive up and get a home test kit as well as various masks provided and made actually by The Resource Center. We want to thank The Resource Center for providing us with over 500 masks they make in-house. We really appreciate them as well as the test kits. And we still have a lot of New York Clean left over so everyone’s going to get a complimentary couple of bottles of New York Clean to take home with them.”

Tests can be picked up at the following locations and times:

• Prendergast Library: Walk-in pickup available Wednesday starting at 1 p.m.

• JCC Back Parking Lot near Science Building: Drive-thru pickup available Wednesday from 3 to 4 p.m.

• Persell Middle School, Baker Street Bus Loop: Drive-thru pickup available Wednesday from 5 to 6 p.m.

• Christ First United Methodist Church: Drive-thru pickup available Thursday from 3 to 4 p.m.

• Allen Park Ice Rink Parking Lot: Drive-thru pickup available Thursday from 5 to 6 p.m.

“We are encouraging council members to come help us hand out those kits,” Sundquist said. “I will tell you I anticipate they will go quickly. If any of you have been to Rite Aid or Walgreens trying to find one of these kits, it’s like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow right now.”

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