Lord Mayor Betty Disero is “begging” everyone to stay at home and maintain physical distance amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Disero gave an update on COVID-19 preparations during a council meeting Monday. The meeting, held via teleconference, was closed to the public but was live-streamed on the town’s website.
“To those of you who are not following the recommendations and pleas from all other levels of governments to stay home and practise physical distancing, I’m begging you at this point to stay home for the sake of our community. To be proactive now will be the only saving grace we have as we go through this,” Disero said.
“If you’re bringing new people to Niagara-on-the-Lake now, even for a weekend, you’re putting this community at risk. Shame on you … And for those people who are not following the guidelines, we cannot regulate stupidity.”
The town and Region of Niagara have both launched #StayHome promotional and social media campaigns to get people to remain inside.
Disero thanked people for their patience and co-operation.
“To those of who you who are staying at home and keeping your physical distance if you have to go out, you’re helping to stop the potential spread in Niagara-on-the-Lake. We’re thankful and forever grateful for your leadership.”
She also expressed gratitude to area hotels for cancelling reservations and rebooking stays at a later date.
The lord mayor said she also wanted to assure residents that all the skilled migrant workers who are around town now have been have been here for 14 days or more – and some of them arrived in January. For any new migrant workers arriving in NOTL, requirements will be posted once finalized.
“I know the farming community has the best interest of our community, their families and their workers at heart. They will not let us down. They will do what needs to be done to keep us safe.”
By earlier declaring a state of emergency, Disero said she wanted to show the provincial government that NOTL was at risk due to its older population, to show support to the provincial and federal government, and to send a message to community residents.
“We must be proactive now to minimize the potential for community spread, and not be reactive once the virus is upon us,” Disero said.
“So, please, Niagara-on-the-Lake, look after each other and yourself, keep your distance when you’re outside. We will use every possible means to keep you informed and provide whatever you need to stay safe.”
The town’s emergency team, formed on March 14, is comprised of members of the fire department, chief administrative officer, the director of community and planning services and lord mayor herself. They have been holding virtual meetings every day, Disero said, and there is an emergency plan on immediate, medium- and long-term issues that need to be addressed.
Town staff have not been laid-off because they’ve been working on backlogged reports and files, Disero explained. If this work isn’t continued now and the town waits until the crisis is over, the financial impact on taxpayers will be significant because staff will be working overtime in order to catch up.
Because seasonal contract workers haven’t been hired yet, the town’s full-time workers have additional responsibilities assigned to them. All members of the staff have also been doing their mandatory online training for their redeployment, Disero said.
Maintenance work, such as cutting grass in the parks, will need to continue, otherwise, there could be other risks, such as ticks.
Disero thanked town staff for their dedication, giving a special mention to the town’s communications team of Lauren Kruitbosch and Beth Audet.
Later in the meeting, as part of several approved financial relief measures, councillors reduced licensing fees for short-term rentals to $115, last year's rate. Operators who have already paid the new 2020 fee will receive a refund of the excess payment.
Councillors also voted in favour of renaming Glendale Avenue East, where the Niagara Corporate Business Centre is situated, to Lampman Court. In February, members of the Friends of Laura Secord urged the town council to preserve local history and heritage.
Town councillors also decided to keep the current levels of waste collection service for downtown businesses. The regional contractor will continue to pick up 20 bags per collection, three times a week.
Municipal staff will also discuss with the region if two different levels of service can be provided as 27 out of 29 survey respondents have indicated they want a reduced level of service with 10 bags per collection picked up three times a week.