By Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith
We are living in unprecedented times with the current COVID-19 pandemic.
We are seeing the enormous impacts and responses around the globe, in our country, and here in our province and community. As Sidney’s Mayor, I want to assure residents, businesses and community organizations that the Town of Sidney has been closely monitoring, planning and implementing measures to ensure the health and safety of our community and the provision of essential Town services.
On March 4 we initiated a dedicated webpage for the community on our Town website, to provide important and reliable information regarding COVID-19 and the measures that are implemented. Updates are now occurring almost daily, and you can sign up on the website to receive them automatically by email.
On March 12 we activated a Level 1 Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) at our Community Safety Building. On March 17 the EOC was stepped up to Level 2 and currently has 13 staff working on a full-time basis. The EOC team is working diligently and is in regular communications with our neighbouring municipalities, Emergency Management BC and Vancouver Island and Provincial Health authorities to ensure a consistent and joint response in this public health emergency.
On March 16, in accordance with and to facilitate the Provincial Health Officer’s directives on social gatherings and physical distancing, the Town closed public access to all municipal buildings, including the Town Hall, Public Works, Driver’s Services, the Community Safety Building and the RCMP building. We have policies to allow non-essential Town staff to work from home and to ensure that staff who provide essential services are able to carry out their work in a safe environment. Sidney Council meetings are being live-streamed from the Town’s website so residents do not need to attend in person. Council agendas show our new temporary public participation procedures.
Further initiatives in our community include the closure of all outdoor public facilities, including Town of Sidney municipal playgrounds, sport courts and the skate park. We encourage residents to continue to walk through our parks with appropriate physical distancing.
All of our indoor community facilities are closed until further notice and a list of these community facilities is available on the Town’s COVID-19 webpage. As well, our local churches have instituted new procedures regarding their services.
As a local business owner, I am aware first-hand of the effects this pandemic is having on employees and business owners. We are working with the Sidney Business Improvement Area Society and Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce to support the business community and provide assistance with business continuity planning. Along with new Federal and Provincial programs being announced, we will consider local government measures for residents and businesses.
The BIA is maintaining a list of local businesses and the changes they have implemented, including closures, adjusted hours, and service changes; it can be accessed on the Town’s COVID-19 web pages.
The measures being taken around the globe and in our community to flatten the COVID-19 curve are enormous. I know during both good times and challenging times the people of Sidney and the Saanich Peninsula pull together to make a difference. I am seeing this happen on many levels during these most challenging times. By taking care of ourselves and our loved ones physically, mentally and emotionally, and being good neighbours, we’ll get through this together and come back a strong and vibrant community.