FOLEY - Foley Mayor John Koniar released a letter on Monday, April 20, giving a detailed update on the City of Foley during the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter addressed issues being faced by citizens, businesses, and the city.
“As mayor, I wanted to provide you with a status update with regard to the COVID-19 virus,” Koniar wrote. “I know all of you have been tracking progress of the virus, monitoring actions taken by federal government to respond to the effects of the pandemic, and have been adhering to the requirements identified in Governor Kay Ivey’s Stay at Home order. This has, and continues to be, difficult for all of us.”
Koniar acknowledged one of the largest struggles being faced by many during this crisis: unemployment. With many businesses closed or partially closed during the Stay at Home order, many have found themselves out of work until the economy is reopened. The federal government began depositing stimulus checks into bank accounts, and Koniar encourages those who have not seen the check deposited to visit the IRS website to obtain status info.
“Also, through the Federal Care Act, grants provided to small businesses to pay their payroll, utilities, and rent/mortgage interest for two months began to occur,” he said. “The funding for this program was quickly allocated and therefore some small businesses have not yet received this grant. However, I anticipate congress will allocate additional funds for this program through legislation this week. Let’s hope this week proves this and the remaining small businesses in our community secure this much needed funding.”
Both programs are being provided to help prepare the country to reopen once it is deemed safe. Neither are long-term, and will only last for a few months to help maintain small businesses and provide citizens a way to stay on their feet during the economic downturn.
Since mid-March, many city-run facilities have been closed to the public, including Town Hall, Foley Public Library, Foley Welcome Center, Foley Senior Center, and museums. A similar decision has been made in other municipalities in the county to stop the spread of the virus. Even if closed to the public, many city officials are still working inside to keep the city running during the shutdown. Other facilities, including Graham Creek, Foley Dog Park, other municipal parks (not including the Kids Park), Coastal Alabama Farmers and Fishermans Market, and the Rose Trail remain open.
“These efforts are designed to not materially affect the essential operational activities of the city and to maintain the quality of life that our community has come to expect,” Koniar said. “Police and fire protection, essential administrative and maintenance functions, and regular sanitation collections continue as normal.”
City Hall lobby has remained opened, with the majority of public interaction coming via phone and email. Council meetings are being held in the Civic Center to allow for the appropriated six feet social distancing. Work sessions and council meetings are being held simultaneously until further notice, beginning at 5:30 p.m. on the first and third Monday of the month.
One of the largest programs affected is recycling, which has been temporarily put on hold. While trash collection is done by a side-loading vehicle, recycling pickup is a hands-on task. For the safety of the workers, the decision was made to suspend the program indefinitely.
On construction, Foley recently approved the automatic extension of permits during the COVID-19 emergency operations.
“We’re extending these building permits for a six-month period, from the point that the emergency has ended six-months forward from there,” said City Administrator Mike Thompson. “The whole purpose is to try to help the construction industry with the things that were about to be underway or that had just gotten started, that may have delays in work and timeframe due to COVID-19.”
A big question on everyone’s mind is, “What’s next?” In these uncertain times, that’s a question that cannot be easily answered. However, city officials are working to stay on top of the virus and prepare for whatever the future will bring. The Stay at Home order is currently in effect until April 30, at which time it will be announced if the order will be extended or lifted.
“The governor recently put in place a committee to review steps to re-open our economy and she has received a report from that committee which provides her with their input and guidance,” Koniar said. “We anticipate that the governor will take measured steps in any reopening scenario. As a municipality, we stand ready to implement any steps the state determines necessary, and to work with our businesses and citizens to create an orderly and safe transition back to a fully-opened economy when that time comes.”
Koniar says when the time comes to begin implementing reopening strategies for city facilities and programs, officials will initiate a plan that takes into account safety-related data considered by the governor’s committee. This includes capacity, social distancing, and personal protection protocols.
“These are trying times,” Koniar said. “We will get through this together through our shared commitment to one another and come out the other side a stronger community than ever before!”
To view the full letter, check out http://www.gulfcoastnewstoday.com/stories/update-from-mayor-john-koniar,92144