The mayor of the City of Kawartha Lakes says he’s asking the province if some non-essential businesses can return to doing “behind the scenes” work before being allowed to fully open again.
Andy Letham says he’s had a few discussions with Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott over the last few days about allowing marina staff to go in and start working on boats ahead of reopening in the future, even though a date for when some of the restrictions on non-essential services might be lifted hasn’t been announced by the province.
“We have marinas at some point will open up and people will want their boats,” said Letham. “They need to do the work on these boats to get them prepared for the season, so they’re asking if they can go in and do start readying some of this stuff, not open to the public, so that when they are open, they’re ready to go instead of having a month’s work to prep.”
Letham also used the example of municipal arenas and pools, which have been closed down due to the state of emergency.
“Most of those have been drained and are closed, but there is maintenance that is needed before they can open once again,” he said. “How do we get some of the behind-the-scenes work done to get it ready to open? I think there’s a little leeway we can look at, not now, but in the future to do this.”
On April 28, council will meet virtually for a special session.
Two task forces will likely be struck at that meeting — one headed by Letham, which will look at business recovery, and the second will be focused on community recovery.
The business recovery task force will involve the mayor, deputy mayor, directors of planning and engineering and business owners across all sectors.
“We know at some point we are going to get back to this, so what do we need to do in the background right now to start working toward it? The community recovery will focus on food security, housing and not-for-profits, so how can we organize that a little bit, so that when we start eking back into normality, how do we do it responsibly,” Letham said.
“You can’t just flip that switch and go back to normal.
“We’re not talking about what to shut down at this point, we’re talking about what we need to do to come back. We’ve turned a bit of a corner.”
The municipality has received $1.8 million in provincial funding to be handed out to places that offer food security and housing, such as the A Place Called Home shelter in Lindsay and Kawartha Lakes Food Source. The money is to be split between Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton.
Meanwhile, Kingston city council is looking at asking for local flexibility in provincial orders to allow Kingstonians to access some community amenities, such as gardens.
Letham said the City of Kawartha Lakes isn’t looking into doing that at this time.
“I haven’t talked to council about it, but we respect what the province is trying to do. We’re seeing encouraging numbers and curves and statistics, but we’re still seeing outbreaks in certain facilities and long-term care homes. It’s about finding that balance,” Letham said.
“Once they’re comfortable, we’ll be right there beside them. Once the province says it’s ready to go, we want to be as well as a municipality.”
Letham said he feels with proper physical-distancing protocols, some businesses, such as the Lindsay drive-in theatre, golf courses and restaurants, should be allowed to re-open soon.
“We’ve got a lot of people out there with a lot of common sense. I think some businesses can get back to some sense of normalcy and I think we can respect that people will want to do some things. If we can allow them to do that, but properly and carefully, I think it helps everybody continue the precautions we need to do,” said Letham.
“Going to a drive-in or a restaurant, at some point, where tables are separated enough that it’s done properly, I think there’s a lot of different ways for businesses to operate at a reduced level. Hopefully, something is better than nothing as we try to get back to where we were.”
On the media call on Tuesday morning, Letham also told reporters the municipality hasn’t recalled any staff that were laid off as of yet.
“We don’t know where this is going in the next few weeks. May 12 is the date we’re all look at at this point. If on May 12 the province decides we’ve turned the corner and we can get back to business, we’ll look at the plans at that time and decide what people we need for those plans.”