FAIRHOPE – The latest orders from Gov. Kay Ivey to slow the spread of the coronavirus should not affect Fairhope municipal operations much, Mayor Karin Wilson said after directives were issued Friday.
The mayor said the city had already closed most municipal buildings to the public and restricted access to the municipal pier, parks with playgrounds and other areas where people might gather in larger groups than allowed under state mandates.
“We were already doing more than the state required,” she said Friday evening. “The city has been proactive about this.”
Wilson said she is concerned about the economic impact the orders might have on some small businesses. The orders allow “essential businesses” to remain open. Essential businesses include grocery stores, pharmacies, garages and a variety of other merchants.
“My biggest concern is that it’s going to keep a lot of people from opening, but the big box stores will be able to sell the same things because they also sell groceries or other items that are allowed,” she said.
Wilson’s family operates an independent bookstore in Fairhope, but under the order, bookstores are allowed to remain open.
The city of Fairhope voted March 23 to close the city pier, dog park, North Beach and all parks with playgrounds. City Hall and other municipal buildings were closed to the public earlier in the month. Walk-in bill payment services were suspended, but utility bills can still be paid using a drop box outside city hall. For a limited time, residents can also pay over the telephone using a credit card.
Wilson said she also hopes to expand the city’s Neighborhood Bridges program to help residents who might need assistance while the stay-at-home orders are in place.
Neighborhood Bridges is a platform that allows residents to volunteer to meet needs requested by other people in the area. “We’re going to focus on our senior citizens and make sure their needs are met during this pandemic,” Wilson said in a recent statement.
She said city officials and business leaders are also working on a resiliency marketing plan to be launched when stay-at-home orders are lifted.
“We just want to do our part as a city to help businesses rebound, really at the conclusion of the pandemic,” Wilson said on March 23. “This will include a citywide investment in business promotion which will include PR, advertising, collateral, a wide range of media strategy, along with collaborative efforts by the Eastern Shore Chamber and the Downtown Business Association to begin this process.”
She said money spent on the project should generate several times as much in benefits to the economy and help the city recoup lost sales tax revenue.
“large part of Fairhope’s unique character comes from our local independent businesses and the personalities behind these businesses,” Wilson said. “While entrepreneurs may have storefronts, they also include those who work from home, doctors, attorneys, artists, authors, landscapers, consultants, and many other different trades.”