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‘We all know how to run our business’

Consensus before commissioners wants to go ‘Green’

The consensus was it’s time for Warren County to go green.

On Thursday, business owners in Warren County had a chance to send their thoughts on COVID-19 shutdowns and reopenings to Gov. Tom Wolf.

The Warren County Commissioners hosted a virtual town hall meeting attended by about 50 people, including Rep. Kathy Rapp and Sen. Scott Hutchinson.

“These voices are important to us,” Commissioner Ben Kafferlin said. “We’re going to relay it to the governor’s office, make sure that he understands the impacts that his orders are having on the local economy.”

About 20 business representatives spoke. Some said their businesses should have been classified as essential. Some said closing them down was a violation of their rights. Many asked for clarity about the phases and the future. In general, they were all ready to move forward.

“We all know how to run our business,” Brenda Gibson of Brenda Gibson Notary Service said. “Just let us do it.”

Some of the owners said there was an urgent need to reopen.

“We are new owners,” Joseph Mueller of Snap Fitness said. “We’re in a very vulnerable time. We don’t have a ton of cash on hand. If we are not allowed to open in the very near future, we face the very real prospect of not being able to reopen.”

Gibson said she paid her employees through the end of April despite being shut down. She has utilized the Paycheck Protection Program loans since, but does not believe her business will survive another prolonged shutdown.

“If our governor chooses, at his own whim, to shut us down again, there’s a good chance I’m not going to be able to reopen,” Gibson said. “We have not had enough cases in Warren County to justify what he has done to the small businesses. Put Warren County back in the green phase.”

“If we cannot return to full operations very soon, we will be forced to close,” Bob Williams said, representing Buccardo’s Restaurant. “We feel we are ready and willing to comply with any and all regulations that are put forth. The small businesses and the farmers are the backbone of this whole country.”

“I think golf, more than any other activity, has been kicked around,” John Bortz of Cable Hollow Golf Course said. “The fishing season opened up early, but golf remained closed.”

“The shutdown couldn’t have come at a more vulnerable time” for golf courses,” he said. “Many of them are not going to make it through this period.”

“We have to be very careful about overreacting,” Bortz said. “Let’s not exacerbate Warren County because of a one-size-fits-all approach. I don’t think we need any more government regulation or ambiguity.”

“Let’s get these businesses open again,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s up to the individual. If you don’t feel safe, just stay home.”

“I see very little reason why a beauty shop cannot open,” Ken Roberts, representing several Youngsville businesses, said, “It is a very hurtful thing of what they’ve done.”

“We are 56 days with absolutely no revenue,” Kelly Wright of Peace, Love, and Wellness said. “I would like permission to open up for massage therapy immediately. We have no idea when that’s coming.”

“We have all safety measures planned,” Tom Christie of Christie’s Pub said. “Disposable menus. Paper table cloths. Non-contact payment. Six-foot distancing. I feel with the utmost confidence that we could safely open.”

Paul Mangione of Crescent Beer argued against half measure. “Opening at 50 percent really isn’t an option,” he said. “The bars and restaurants have already endured hardship.”

“We have completely changed our operation,” Piper VanOrd of Allegheny Outfitters said. “We have installed plexiglass in the shop. We require everybody to use hand sanitizer. We have a limit of five people in the shop. We require masks.”

“We’re all concerned with our patrons’ safety,” Wendy McCain of Struthers Library Theatre said. “It’s very hard to plan with no idea of when we can reopen and no idea what the rules will be. We’re very limited on how we can plan our future.”

“It is long overdue and time for us to move into the next phase,” Kim Angove said. “But it needs to be done safely. Don’t just treat certain populations as expendable and they can stay home and everyone else can do what they want.”

The General Assembly is moving bills to the governor, Rapp said, but even in the legislature, some things are not clear.

“We have not heard of any plan or criteria to move counties into the green,” she said. “I think it’s a critical time for the county to come together.”

“We all want to be safe,” Rapp said. “We want to do things safely, but we also want to make sure that we don’t go under economically. Hopefully we will see our county being open safely in the very near future.”

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