Balancing public safety with a return to normal
The city council met again Wednesday, May 13, and there’s really only one topic to discuss.
Blue bags. (Just kidding.)
CAO Jason Nunemaker gave councilmembers an update related to Covid-19:
Reopening status: The county, perhaps by Thursday, will send a request to Gov. Ron DeSantis to lift some restrictions on Broward County and we’d ease into Phase I. DeSantis’ order then goes back to the county level, which signs off and cities receive a version to work on. Cities can be stricter than the county and state requirements but we can’t be more lenient.
What will we get? Restaurants will likely be allowed to operate at 25 percent capacity for indoor dining. But a nice angle is that outdoor seating doesn’t count toward that total. So that’s an option for restaurants, as long as they social distance, etc., and city leaders are trying to coach restaurants on this. Salons will open, with restrictions. Countywide beach usage is still under discussion.
What about parks? Passive use only will be the rule. No team sports: Note that the city had to close the fields at Sunset Park and Central Park because of too many violations. Do not hold me to it, and this is only a guess, but the dog park could open by the end of the month. It would be open mornings and evenings and visitors would register appointment-style to control crowding. Neighborhood-run pools may open, with restrictions. The Central Park pool likely will not open this month. Tennis and pickleball remain singles only, with appointments.
City Hall: Almost all employees will be back in their seats by Monday, with masks. But City Hall will remain closed to the public as we work out logistics in visitor areas, etc. There’s no timetable on that yet.
Funding: The CARES act meant $300 million for Broward County, which will appropriate some of that to Feeding South Florida. But because the CARES money can’t be used to supplant revenue losses (i.e., we would have made money on tennis fees, etc.), the county is being cautious about how the rest will be awarded. The state has $4 billion in CARES funding, and one hope is that that money could replace “shared revenues” in our budget. That is, state money that we normally get a piece of won’t be as robust, so our city budget will need some help.
Farmer’s market: The farmer’s market at Volunteer Park will reopen this Saturday, from 8 a.m.- 2 p.m. and continue each Saturday. Only food products will be available at this time. Anyone attending the market must wear a mask, maintain six feet of separation, sanitize hands before and after a purchase, and please have patience with the person in front of you. Also, there will be no sampling allowed.
Assistance: The Planning and Zoning Department is looking to receive more money from the state to bolster its CDBG budget, which can then help our city. We also hired a new redevelopment manager, who can help with our Midtown and State Road 7/Gateway projects.
Public safety: Police Chief Howard Harrison and Fire Chief Don Todd report that the overwhelming majority of residents are wearing masks and practicing social distancing. The few outliers often comply with the mere presence of law enforcement. As far as applying the laws, Chief Harrison again preaches common sense, as I wrote about here. What I’ve learned is that many decisions in the overall reopening has two sides to it. (As a former journalist, I am programmed try to weigh both of them, and try not fall into a trap of rhetoric.)
Summer camps (announced earlier): Space will be very limited and selection will be based on a lottery system. Go to plantation.org/Parks-Recreation/camps.html.
Nick Sortal is president of the Plantation City Council. Call him at 954-498-5337 or email NSortal@Plantation.org. This newsletter originates on NickSortal.com and is shared via various platforms.