Questions related to COVID-19 and boat launches, garage sales, farmers’ markets, and large gatherings were among the issues discussed at Huntsville Council’s electronic meeting held April 29.
Steve Hernen, Huntsville director of operations and protective services, said the Province has been asked for its position on boat launches and it has indicated that if a boat launch is part of a marina, the marina is not deemed as an essential service, which means the boat launch would be closed.
“They say if it is a private stand-alone boat launch or a municipal boat launch they’re not mandating them to be closed and it’s up to the municipality if they wanted to close the boat launches. All our boat launches are presently operating,” said Hernen, adding that there is signage by the ramps which speak to proper social distancing and limiting gatherings of up to five people.
Hernen said contractors are using the boat ramps. He also said the District of Muskoka currently has a contractor using a boat launch to access the water plant. “We’re not aware of any abuse or issue with them at this time and we’re actually preparing to put the docks in, in the next few days, around those boat launches as the water goes down.”
Councillors Jonathan Wiebe and Dan Armour voiced their support for keeping them open, which council approved.
Garage and yard sales
Because the Province has not ruled on garage or yard sales, the matter is being left up to the individual municipalities. Huntsville Mayor Karin Terziano said she has received emails inquiring about the issue, and asked council to weigh in on the matter.
Councillor Brian Thompson said they should definitely be allowed and said it would be up to the host of the garage or yard sale to police social distancing. “I think that’s easy for them to do, type of thing, so I would be totally in favour of keeping yard sales open, for sure,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Nancy Alcock questioned where other municipalities stood on the issue. The Town’s director of development services, Kirstin Maxwell, said Orillia and Barrie have prohibited them.
Councillor Tim Withey questioned who would be enforcing social distancing at garage sales, which draw a large crowd, and said he did not think leaving crowd control up to those hosting the events was feasible. “Has the OPP weighed in on this? Have they said they’re going to be getting out their map of Saturday morning garage sales and making the rounds?”
Councillor Jonathan Wiebe concurred. “I’m uncomfortable with it at this time until the Province relaxes some of the distancing guidelines.”
Councillor Dione Schumacher agreed with both Withey and Wiebe and suggested the issue can be revisited once the Province lifts the restrictions on the number of people who can gather.
Others like Councillor Dan Armour noted that many people have garage sales to make a little extra money and said most people understand the need for social distancing, which can be done. Councillor Jason FitzGerald agreed with Armour. He said people have educated themselves on the need for social distancing and they may need the source of income.
But in the end, when put to a vote, the majority of councillors voted to ban garage and yard sales until further notice.
Maxwell told council the markets are considered essential because they sell food, “but they would have to ensure that they were practising appropriate social distancing if they were to do so.” She also noted that only food vendors would be allowed.
Mayor Terziano asked council if they were comfortable with news that the organizers of Ironman 70.3 Muskoka have cancelled their event for July 12 and plan on announcing a new date of August 30 for the event.
Wiebe referred to setting a new date as simply a best guess. “This is touted as a big international event that brings in all people from all over the place… I think they’re dreaming, sorry,” he added
Alcock concurred with Wiebe. “They can announce if they want but they may not be allowed to, and there are so many things that need to happen before then, right. End of August, that’s a big crowd of people. Nobody’s talking about big crowds of people happening anytime soon,” she said.
Greg Pilling, Town manager of sales and customer service, said Ironman organizers are well aware that it may not come to fruition, but they’re hopeful.
“I think that this is irresponsible,” said Withey. “Hope is one thing, I know personally of some friends of mine that are wanting to come up from the States. They’re constantly messaging me wondering what is going on. I don’t think it’s responsible for us to say holding out hope is what we’re doing. That’s not what we should be doing. I think we should just say sorry until further notice it’s been suspended.”
Town director of community services, Lorrie O’Brien, advised council to wait to see what measures the organizers are putting in place as phased restrictions are lifted by the Province, “and then you can decide if you are comfortable or not comfortable as a council…,” she said. “We recognize as well as there’s risks to an event, there’s also benefits economically, socially, mentally to people. But I think the overriding direction that we got from the Province, which makes sense, is can we limit the spread of COVID-19 and can event organizers do that.”
Terziano said staff should communicate to the organizers that the Town won’t be signing a contract to host the event at the end of August right now.
Thompson expressed concerns with the continuity of the event if it’s removed from the calendar and said it’s several months away “so we really don’t know what’s going to happen between now and then and I think to just kill the race at this particular point might be just a little premature.”
Withey expressed concern with announcing a date for the event. He said it could also be a liability issue if, for example, somebody from the US comes to Huntsville to train for the event and gets sick in the process.
Pilling was directed to talk to the organizers but he questioned whether it would be okay for the organizers to announce the event for August 30.
“No,” replied Withey. “Because you’re going to get people coming up to start training… and I think that’s dangerous. People will still travel, we see it now. So I would say no, definitely not.”
Alcock agreed. “I wouldn’t put out false hope,” she said.
Armour said the best response would be to tell organizers that “we’re still under a state of emergency right now. When it’s lifted, we’ll readdress the issue.”
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