What have councillors been hearing from the community?
That’s what Huntsville Mayor Karin Terziano asked councillors to share with one another on April 6, when council once more came together remotely in an electronically broadcast meeting—the third of its kind since March 26, 2020.
One by one, councillors expressed the concerns they’d been hearing including seeing people congregating despite the dire warning from the Province to self-isolate in order to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Deputy Mayor Nancy Alcock, who said she had heard concerns about hotel owners not practising safe distancing measures, said she wasn’t entirely sure how to direct the person who had contacted her with those concerns, but said she ended up giving them the number for the OPP.
“I guess my lesson around that is the more communication the better when we have information that we need to get out to the community,” she told her fellow councillors.
On a positive note, added Alcock, she said she was hearing a lot about how businesses are adapting in light of the situation. “I can think of at least a handful that have kind of completely readjusted the way they do business and it’s kind of really inspirational to hear and see, not to say everything’s tickety-boo, but for me, every day is a learning experience.”
Councillor Dan Armour, a commander with paramedic services in Muskoka, said he thought people were adapting well, “and I have a lot of faith going forward.”
Councillor Jason FitzGerald said he’s proud of his community. “I see everyone doing what they’re supposed to be doing. I think the Town staff and you have done a very good job relating to the public what’s acceptable and what isn’t, and for the most part in Port Sydney where I seem to be stuck, everyone is being helpful and abiding by the rules, so I’m happy to see that.”
Councillor Dionne Schumacher, who also represents that area, concurred but said she had received a couple of calls on the weekend from constituents concerned that some people were seen congregating on their driveway.
She said while they were keeping their distance, they were still having friends over. Other concerns involved neighbours inviting family up for the weekend to stay with them. “And I get that it’s family but again impressing upon them that family needs to stay apart unless they’re in the same home kind of thing,” she said. Schumacher also said she had been contacted by another community member whose opinion it was, based on the last council meeting, that council was too caught up on dollar figures and forgot they were dealing with people.
She said that may have been the impression that came out in open session but much of the discussion surrounding people and the impact the municipality’s decisions would have on them was discussed in closed session.
Also on a positive note, Shumacher, who works for Community Living Huntsville, said she was grateful that the community had donated cloth masks to the organization. “It’s nice to see the community step up and help with regards to the staff that are going in each and every day in our group homes, which is nice to see.”
Councillor Bob Stone said he had received many calls and emails about cottagers coming to the area to “wait this out.” He said year-round residents are quite concerned, because “obviously our small hospital isn’t ready for a big influx beyond our local citizens at this time.” He said many of the contractors who look after opening the cottages of seasonal residents are refusing to do so at this time.
The cottage maintenance companies have banded together and said ‘we’re not going to be opening these cottages for the people headed this way until the emergency is over,’ and I really take my hat off to them for not taking the business in order to do the right thing.
— Councillor Bob Stone
Councillor Brian Thompson said he’d heard concerns from a couple of people about the amount of traffic at a local gas station and grocery store this past Friday. “It was almost like summer and there was concern in that regard that the appropriate social distancing was not taking place particularly at the grocery store…”
Thompson said he had also heard concerns about council’s decision to leave out dust suppression as part of its cost-saving measures and said he’d be asking council to revisit that decision at the next council meeting.
Huntsville Councillor Jonathan Wiebe said he got a call from a friend in the trades who seemed confused as to whether the work he was doing was in fact considered an essential service.
He said he had called to “ask my opinion on what the right thing to do was,” said Wiebe, who is also a carpenter.
I think a lot of people in the trades, etc. are getting mixed messages. On one hand, they hear our premier saying ‘please stay home’ and on the other hand work’s proceeding. They don’t know if they’re actually providing an essential service or not. They feel kind of stuck in two spots
— Councillor Jonathan Wiebe
“There’s a lot of people in the trades, which makes up a large number of the workforce here, that feels kind of stuck in two spots,” he added.
Huntsville Councillor Tim Withey, an insurance broker, said he’s been hearing from many clients who operate businesses in Huntsville. “The common comment I’m hearing from them is that they don’t think they’re going to make it, that they can’t last being closed now or for much longer. A number of the larger resorts that are clients of mine are calling, not because I know any better, but to vent because they’re concerned that they’re not going to have a summer season at all. So, as others have spoken, it’s great to be optimistic, I’m afraid that we are in this for the long haul and there’s going to be a lot of long-standing issues for a lot of our people—not only business owners but employees,” said Withey. “I believe we have to hope for the best but plan for the worst. I’m not getting calls about traffic on highways. I’m not getting calls about people congregating, I’m getting calls about people who are losing their livelihoods and the livelihoods of their employees…”
Terziano thanked council and reminded community members that as Easter weekend approaches, a time most would spend with family and friends, that gatherings should take place remotely, through digital media and telephone calls. “It won’t be a normal Easter,” she said, adding that there’s also a fire ban in place. “Practice self-distancing and let’s keep our community as healthy as we can.”
She said the contact information for various community resources will be provided on the Town’s COVID-19 information page at huntsville.ca.
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