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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

County Commissioners Talk Tourism, Juneteenth And CPD Gun Range

Bill Rinehart

Hamilton County could use up to $2 million of federal CARES Act funding for a marketing effort to support struggling hotels, cultural institutions, attractions and businesses. 

Tourism officials said Tuesday the goal is to reach local residents and invite them to rediscover attractions and destinations in the region.

Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Julie Calvert said since March, 155 groups have canceled conventions, resulting in the loss of 126,000 room nights. She said there would have been 165,000 attendees for those events.

That's a loss of $60 million in direct sales impact, which is money that would go into the hotels. And that number increases to $95 million when considering businesses that were impacted like restaurants, retail and transportation.

"The damage and the dissemination that continues to occur to the hospitality and the travel industry as a result of COVID-19 really is not showing signs of letting up in earnest," Calvert said. "But we are seeing some bright spots in terms of request for proposals and leisure tourism that happened during the summer."

There are 12 groups that still have conventions planned for the rest of this year, but Calvert is not expecting those events to be held.  She said so far, there have been no cancellations for 2021, but some groups have been asking questions about moving forward with those gatherings.

Calvert said the CVB is now focused on booking convention for 2022 and beyond.

Brendon Cull with the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber said the effort to market to local residents is about economic stimulus and helping small businesses and other institutions keep their doors open while letting people know that they can do things safely.

"This is what's open; this how, throughout the next quarter, you can support local businesses, local arts and cultural activities, local minority owned businesses, business districts throughout the county; and help keep them thriving through what I think will be a tough quarter during the pandemic," Cull said.

The groups partnering for the local tourism marketing campaign are hoping to launch it in late October, and then continue it through November and December.

Juneteenth County Holiday

The county commission will vote Thursday on a resolution to make June 19, Juneteeth, a paid holiday for board of commissioner employees starting in 2021.

"Juneteenth symbolizes the end of chattel slavery in America," said Chris Miller, the senior director of education and community engagement with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. "It serves as a historical milestone reminding Americans of the triumphant of the human spirit over the systemic injustice of enslavement."

The measure would only apply to county departments and employees who are under the control of the county commissioners.  Independently elected county office holders and the courts would have to make their own decisions about such a paid holiday for their employees.

Some private corporations and governments across the country have taken similar measures to make June 19 a paid holiday for their workers.

Cincinnati Police Department Gun Range

The commission could also vote on a resolution Thursday asking the city of Cincinnati to work with the county and nearby communities to close the Cincinnati Police Department's gun range in Evendale.

The city police have been using the site for training since the 1940s.

But residents in Evendale, Lincoln Heights and Woodlawn say the facility needs to be shut down. They're tired of the loud gun fire and say it's having an emotional and traumatic effect on nearby children.

"Something needs to happen with the gun range," said County Commissioner Stephanie Summerow Dumas. "It is a resolution that will change history."

Cincinnati officials have said they are not opposed to closing the Evendale gun range and selling the property.  But the city wants help finding a new location for it and money to construct a new facility.  That comes with a price of $5-9 million.

So far, the county nor the involved local governments have found or offered the necessary funding to make that happen.

Commission President Denise Driehaus has proposed the county and the city work together to expand the county sheriff's department's gun range in Colerain Township.  She said federal authorities could also use such a facility, and U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown had indicated federal money may be available for such a project.

However, in a report, Cincinnati's interim city manager expressed concern about moving city police to the county range. The report indicated the county has been receiving noise complaints from nearby neighbors and adding city police to the site would only exacerbate the problem.

Cincinnati Council Member Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney and five of her colleagues are asking city, county and other stakeholders to have a public hearing this fall to discuss the issue and try to find a solution.

"The focus of the public hearing is to discuss the environmental impact of the gun range, including any available data in addition to hearing from residents, business owners, and other effected by the gun range," read the council motion.

The motion asks for that public hearing to be held before the end of October.

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.