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 Employees of the city of Harper Woods were treated to a thank-you meal by city administrators on May 14 in recognition for the extra effort they took during the COVID-19 quarantine.

Employees of the city of Harper Woods were treated to a thank-you meal by city administrators on May 14 in recognition for the extra effort they took during the COVID-19 quarantine.

Photo by Brendan Losinski

Harper Woods hosts lunch to thank staff for extra effort during quarantine

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published June 18, 2020

HARPER WOODS — The city of Harper Woods, in conjunction with the Wayne County Executive’s Office, took time May 14 to thank its employees with a lunch for going the extra mile to maintain city services despite the COVID-19 quarantine.

Staff members were treated — one or two at a time to maintain safety measures — to lunch and dessert from local restaurants.

“It got started with some Facebook posts where the staff of County Executive (Warren) Evans were over on the west side and they would go to a police station or a firehouse to thank the officers and staff, and after I saw about three of those posts, it got me thinking about who I could talk with about doing the same here,” explained District 1 Wayne County Commissioner Tim Killeen.

Killeen went on to say it was a team effort to make the lunch happen. All agreed that making a special effort to support some Harper Woods businesses was crucial, given the hardships many have had to go through during the pandemic.

“(Warren Evans’ office) was doing this sort of event for police and public safety people, and I thought, ‘What about the rest of our staff?’ So I talked to the mayor about bringing them into the event. Councilwoman (Veronica) Paiz and she suggested getting everything catered from local businesses,” he said. “So we got the cake from Sweetheart Bakery, and the meals are coming from Rex’s Deli. This is for the mayor, the judge and the City Council members to say thank you to all of the employees who have just been keeping the city going.”

John Szymanski, the acting city manager of Harper Woods, said the extra steps that staff have had to take were significant, and he was glad the city’s administrators were able to thank employees for their efforts.

“Everyone’s made a concerted effort to maintain and improve hygiene,” said Szymanski. “We’ve doubled up on our cleaning and use of bleach. Our traffic patterns around our offices have been narrowed down to one lane so they don’t bunch up or congregate. We’re all wearing masks.”

He added that it was difficult just maintaining regular services with so many businesses and municipal departments elsewhere that were shut down, yet Harper Woods employees persevered.

“We’re monitoring payments coming into the city; we’re looking at our financial needs a little earlier than usual, because of COVID-19; we are trying to forecast and look at webinars and talk to experts to see what we can expect, since state revenues will probably be soft this year,” Szymanski said. “All of our departments have been working very hard to keep the ship afloat while we maintain the services our residents have come to expect from things like police, fire, garbage pickup, public health and library services.”

The staff, police and fire personnel, Lt. Thomas Teatsorth included, expressed their gratitude for the lunch.

“We’re very appreciative for this,” he remarked. “Any time the city can take the time to show their appreciation, we’re all about it. Police and Fire departments are like families, and we work together every day, so it’s nice to be able to come together over something like this.”

Teatsorth said the quarantine brought about extra challenges for first responders.

“Everybody is nervous about contracting this virus,” he said. “We’ve had challenges in dealing with the public; we’ll respond to a call, and people don’t want to get too close to us, for instance, and it’s really hindered our interaction and given us challenges, such as people not wanting us to enter their house.”

He said there was less traffic on the road and fewer crimes being committed at times, but these advantages were often offset by others thinking there would be a smaller police presence in communities due to health concerns.

“The lower traffic is nice, but the speeding traffic has gotten a little crazy,” he said. “People believe we’re not out there enforcing the laws, but we never left. We’re still out there patrolling the streets. We’re all still here, and we’re all still doing our job, so we’re just a phone call away.”

Still, Teatsorth and his fellow officers made sure to follow the same strict guidelines as all city employees to maintain their own health and the health of others.

“We’ve been following the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines,” Teatsorth said. “We’re all wearing masks, we’re limiting the number of people who can be in the building at one time, everything is being cleaned daily, there’s no visitors or people coming in from other agencies.”

Killeen said he hopes the staff knows that the extra effort has been recognized.

“We wanted to bring a ray of sunshine to people since things have been difficult,” said Killeen. “We want to say thank you and show our gratitude.”