Patrick Taylor – Highlands Mayor
To open or not to open the town, that is the question. Should we continue strict COVID-19 measures, or relax them in an effort to return to some kind of normalcy? I know these questions are on the minds of many, including the town board and myself.
I receive feedback from both perspectives. On Monday morning I took a call from a resident who stated she would not listen to anymore of my negative radio programs that tell part-time residents not to come to Highlands. This person vented that I was hurting the foundation of the economy of the town, and that businesses had to open as soon as possible.
On the other hand, I have residents supporting the strong position that the board has taken in adopting a state of emergency measures that curtail the spread of the coronavirus. These residents are very concerned about an outbreak of the coronavirus in Highlands.
We’re in a precarious situation. The actions of the town, whatever they may be, will not sit well with everyone. I realize any policy decision will cause pain and concern for some, while being assuring for others. The only thing the board and I can do is strive to make responsible decisions that hopefully will be for the best outcome for the town and our residents.
I’m calling a special meeting of the town board for this Friday at 8:30 a.m. I want the board to review our current state of emergency, especially in the context of the governor’s plan to reopen the state. The board should consider what can be done safely to reopen the town and the economy. Regardless of any changes in the town’s state of emergency, the governor’s declarations and reopening plan will have to be followed.
The same resident who called me about my negative radio broadcasts also let me know I was demonstrating poor management skills by not calling the governor to ask for exceptions for communities like Highlands from his state order. The rationale was we do not have the outbreaks like in Raleigh and other large cities, so we should not have to follow the same restrictions.
I do think there are some areas where we may adjust town state of emergency to facilitate opening the economy. Changes must be made carefully and follow the governor’s reopening plan. Phase 1 could begin around May 9 with the limited opening of retail stores. Phase 2 would begin about the first of June with the opening of restaurant dining on a limited capacity basis. Phase 3 would begin sometime in early July with more normal operations including removing the restrictions on large gatherings.
There are difficult decisions ahead. How do we reopen and avoid the loss of a number of businesses? On the other hand, how do we protect our residents, especially the elderly, during this pandemic?
I believe COVID-19 will be with us for sometime. The difficult decisions will continue to be with us also.