By Paul Rolli, Wilton Manors City Commissioner
By now the effects of COVID-19 have surely impacted every Island City resident in varying degrees. We all need to take personal responsibility to protect ourselves and the necessary social distancing and sanitization measures.
Like me, I am sure you have good days, bad days, good weeks, and bad weeks as you figure out your new normal. And yes, at every turn this pandemic will bring new challenges forcing everyone, including government officials and staff at all levels, to recalculate and adjust our strategies. In fact, by the time this article goes to print in June, new information will be available and we will probably be close to or into Phase I reopening under the guidance established by Broward County. While Wilton Manors may open in phases, the dangers of spreading COVID-19 are not over.
From doing what we can to preserve the health and safety of our residents, first responders, and law enforcement personnel, to examining the economic effects that this pandemic is having on our businesses and fiscal health as a local government – we have no choice but to persevere. We must continue to exhibit strong leadership and tackle each hour of each day as new information arises.
Just as with many of our residents, this pandemic is having a major impact on city finances. We continue to discuss budgetary changes in view of estimated income shortfalls so we can continue to provide essential city services, especially as we get deeper into hurricane season.
Your city staff and leaders have and will continue to work diligently to ensure we are doing all that we can to safeguard our city’s future. Daily, I have been speaking to residents as well as neighborhood association presidents and have leaned on their input to guide my decisions from the dais regarding COVID-19 related actions and initiatives. From a city perspective, in these past months we have:
- Implemented safer at home and physical distancing guidelines that were coordinated countywide;
- Communicated nonstop via social media, email, and our website including monitoring and publishing financial assistance opportunities and resources being offered by federal, state, and local agencies, nonprofits, and businesses;
- Hosted food distribution events for those who are food insecure and at times hand delivered food to those who are without transportation;
- Maintained weekly, if not daily, communication with our seniors;
- Looked at budget cuts, hiring freezes, and the redirection of limited financial resources, and a necessary reduction of city services;
- Considered what steps we can take to help businesses by possibly allowing additional outside capacity;
- Reopened parks and boat ramps and are preparing to further reopen our community in a phased, careful, and coordinated manner; and
- Conducted our City Commission meetings via ZOOM® with a clear method for public comments, until emergency orders for Broward County are lifted.
In mid-May, I participated in a virtual meeting with representatives of the Wilton Manors Business Association (WMBA), the Wilton Drive Improvement District, as well as a sample of business owners to brainstorm how the city might be able to help businesses in the reopening process. Those ideas were provided to the City Manager.
Many decisions we will have to make will be tough. They will be based on the information we have on-hand at that moment, knowing that in a couple of weeks, days, or even hours, new information will surface, and we will need to go back and reevaluate, and potentially even course correct. This unwavering dedication to continually adapt our decision making will test our perseverance, but it will not diminish it.