City departments update council on response to COVID-19 pandemic

March 26, 2020 chris
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By Katie Bohannon, Staff Writer

Gadsden Parks and Recreation Department and Public Works presented precautionary COVID-19 measures to the Gadsden City Council on Tuesday, March 17. Officials from both departments discussed the implemented protocol designed to ensure the health and safety of the Gadsden community.

Parks and Recreation Director Jen Weathington updated the council on the recent changes and adaptations the parks department enforced regarding COVID-19. On March 17, all Gadsden Parks and Recreations buildings closed, including Morange Park and Noccalula Falls Park and playground. Noccalula Falls campground is no longer accepting check-ins.

Weathington said that the Therapeutic Bowling Tournament, all therapeutic programs and programs for individuals 60 and older, Special Olympics Track and Field, adult flag football tournament, youth baseball league, baseball and softball tournaments, youth soccer league and fishing tournaments at Coosa Landing are postponed until further notice. While the spring break camp, spring fling event and archery tournament are cancelled, Weathington will explore future dates for the Coosa Landing Super Bass Tournament. Weathington confirmed that Smoke on the Falls is rescheduled for Sept. 19.

Desite all the closures and postponements, Weathington stressed that the Parks and Recreation Department’s senior nutrition will not cease. While the facilities are closed, programs at Elliot and Carver Community Centers will continue for involved and approved seniors. The nutrition program will continue delivering meals for those who cannot participate in the drive-through pick-up service provided for those who normally congregate and eat meals together. The meals will transition from hot meals to brown bags or boxed lunches in the upcoming weeks.

Services at Forest Cemetery are limited but will be held at the funeral home in accordance with the facility’s guidelines. Weathington said that passive parks and trails will remain open only for casual use. Group activity is strongly discouraged and Weathington stressed that parents should understand that all playgrounds and outdoor courts have services that cannot remain sufficiently clean during this time. Discretion is essential and advised for those who continue visiting passive parks.

“I do want to stress that this is not a time for us to gather at our parks,” said Weathington. “All the closings that we are doing in our facilities and other programs are to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. We do not take what the president said lightly, and we are trying to help assist in that.”

Public Works Assistant Director Mike Hilton followed Weathington, addressing that the recycling facility on Henry Street in Gadsden is closed to the public until further notice. While Hilton understands that asking individuals to place recyclable items in their garbage cans raises offense, that is the safest method for the Public Works Department to enforce health in the community. A confirmed date for the reopening of recycling has not been announced and remains dependent upon COVID-19’s effect on Gadsden.

While Gadsden’s landfill and transfer station are also closed to the general public, Hilton said that the public orks department will handle any emergency situations that may arise on a case-by-case basis. He explained to the council that public works must prioritize what is necessary for public health and safety, adding that the importance of trash pick-up outweighs grass maintenance.

“Our employees are our most important asset,” said Hilton. “We are doing these things to protect the essential employees that we have to have to keep the city going with the things we have to do. There is nothing we can do about that except follow those guidelines. We will prioritize what is necessary for public health and safety before we do what is worth convenience. We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.”

The presentations concluded with comments from the council echoing the importance of all individuals playing their roles in ensuring the safety and health of Gadsden. As city officials, the council remains a source of reliable and vital information on preventative and responsive efforts to COVID-19, working together with city departments to remain calm stewards for the community.

“Be safe and follow the guidelines,” councilman Ben Reed said. “You’ll make it through this thing.”