by Mayor Nancy Peckford
It has been an extraordinary ten days as Canadians have adapted quickly to a new and ever-changing reality. Covid-19 (or the coronavirus) has brought unprecedented disruptions to our daily lives, from school and daycare closures, work from home arrangements, heightened risk for those with pre-existing health conditions, as well as imposed self-isolation for many, not to mention social distancing for everyone else.
Getting the groceries, going to the dentist, meeting friends, hosting a birthday party, or travelling across the border are no longer ordinary events.
As Mayor and Council, our job is to ensure that our Municipality is proactive and prudent in its response. The Municipality’s Emergency Management Control Group in North Grenville – comprised of the Chief Administrative Office, senior management team, Mayor and the emergency management coordinator – was activated and met for the first time on Friday, March 13, and an additional three times last week. The municipal control group will remain active for the foreseeable future.
North Grenville is blessed with a great team – including CAO Gary Dyke, a seasoned leader with crisis management experience, and Chief John Okum, Director of Fire Services and Emergency Preparedness. All staff are up to the challenge of managing risk while keeping things moving.
As many know, the municipality has made some important but difficult decisions: 1/The closure of all municipal facilities until April 5 (at a minimum) and municipal offices (except by appointment); 2/The cancellation of all Municipal Advisory committees meetings; 3/The provision of temporary relief from interest and late fees for property taxes payments (until April 30).
Municipal core operations will still continue, however, including police and fire protection services, building permits and inspections, waste management, water and sewage treatment, road maintenance and repair, and facilities maintenance.
All my Council colleagues have received a full briefing from the Emergency Control group. How Council continues to meet, particularly if someone goes into self-isolation, is one of our primary considerations. Fortunately, provincial Minister Steve Clark brought legislation forward to enable electronic participation in Council and Committee meetings.
Ensuring that government proceedings remain available to the public is key. During our March 17 Council meeting, we strongly encouraged folks to live stream the meeting. Several residents emailed questions, and we responded in real-time. While no technology is perfect, the reality is it is a powerful and useful tool during a time like this.
Important discussions are also taking place at the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville. Nearly 33% of NG’s property taxes are paid to the Counties for paramedic services, public health, long term care, access to housing, provincial income supports, childcare, regional economic development and more. My colleague, Mayor Doug Malanka from Augusta, serves as Chair of the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark Public Health Unit.
At our March 19 Counties meeting, we had a lively discussion on ensuring residents and businesses get what they need during this crisis. There are many perspectives, and we bring a diversity of professional backgrounds to the discussion.
Ultimately, what is most important now is our everyday acts. We are a very caring and responsible community. Please limit non-essential trips to retail outlets, including grocery stores. Watch Councillor O’Sullivan’s video on proper handwashing techniques (she has 40 years of nursing experience!).
Confine social gatherings to just family. Support local businesses through take-out and online options. Get outdoors and enjoy the trails at Ferguson Forest, Limerick and in town! Call or email your neighbours to check on them.
Our Kemptville & District Home support is providing additional phone support for seniors feeling isolated. Accessible transportation through ATS is available for crucial trips. If you are experiencing spousal or elder abuse, Victim Services can be reached at 1-800-939-7682 or at www.vslg.ca. Youth Connect will assist vulnerable youth who are not safe at home.
Local food banks, including the Salvation Army and the Knights of Columbus, are taking extra precautions while offering food supplies, no questions asked. The Knights will deliver a food hamper to your front porch. Many grocery stores are offering pick up services, and B&H offers home delivery (including garbage tags!).
These are trying and challenging times, which demand the best of us. We have a long history of enduring crises together and coming out stronger. This one will be no exception.