The town will hold its essential meetings virtually for the foreseeable future to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Audio issues delayed the start of Monday afternoon’s virtual Longboat Key Town Commission meeting, but in the end it sounded a lot like a normal Town Hall version.
With only Town Manager Tom Harmer, Town Clerk Trish Shinkle and Mayor Ken Schneier appearing on the town's streaming service feed, all other participants took part from off-site. The town used the Zoom app for other participants to signal an intention to speak, and be recognized by Schneier.
Early on, audio bugs kept the proceedings at a standstill. After about a 30 minute delay, the town's first virtual meeting ever moved along.
Before the audio issues got fixed, Schneier said the town received a few phone calls from residents about not being able to watch Monday’s meeting on the Longboat Key website.
One person submitted a written comment for Monday’s meeting, requesting the town make it standard-operating procedure to permanently allow for remote participation.
Harmer said the town would use virtual meetings for the foreseeable future because of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, Harmer also provided the commission an update on the town’s response to the pandemic.
“We are very much still in the active phase of this emergency, and we continue to see the number of confirmed cases increase,” Harmer said. “We’ve seen some improvement in how the state is actually reporting the number of positive cases.”
Data from the Florida Department of Health shows Longboat Key’s 34228 ZIP code has seven positive tests of COVID-19.
“It’s especially important for us to follow the social distancing, the safer-at-home protocols, etc.” Harmer said.
Harmer said it was especially important for the residents of Longboat Key to abide by the guidelines to curb the spread of COVID-19. About 69% of the 6,700 full-time residents in the town are older than 65 years old.
“We know we’re vulnerable to the impacts due to the age of our population and somewhat the transient nature of our seasonal residents and visitors,” Harmer said.
The town has canceled all “non-essential work sessions,” according to Harmer. The cancellations include the town’s annual Goals and Objectives meeting, which was scheduled for April 20.
“During this phase of the emergency, we should not be meeting in a public way,” Harmer said.
Town offices are closed to the public, several “non-essential” meetings are canceled, the Linley Street boat ramp is closed, first responders are taking precautions, public beach access points are closed, beach and boat access to Greer Island is closed, and public recreational facilities are shut down, including the Public Tennis Center.
Commissioner B.J. Bishop asked Harmer if there is anything the town can do to prevent private condo owners from continuing to keep amenities open, which could allow for large amounts of people to congregate.
Harmer said the town would advise condo owners on the guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Florida Department of Health, as well as several executive orders from Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“If we do get a complaint or concern, we should respond and evaluate the situation and try to bring them into compliance in a proactive way,” Harmer said. “If we were having a particular private property owner that was refusing, then we would have to look at what other actions we may want to take.”
Harmer said the town has seen “general compliance” from private property owners to adhere to the social-distancing guidelines. Certain recreational activities like walking or golf are allowed so long as that people are adhering to the guidelines, Harmer said.
Several members of the town staff are working remotely from home to social distance and minimize contact with others. Harmer said he does not
“Like all the other local governments in the area, we're starting to look closely at what does this mean for the rest of this fiscal year?” Harmer said. “And then, what does it mean as we start to project for fiscal year '21."
Harmer said the town is monitoring gas tax, communications tax, sales tax and property taxes. He said he anticipates the town will need to make “some adjustments.”
The next regular town commission meeting is scheduled for May 4.
There are four ways to participate in the town’s virtual meetings:
- Listen to the meeting on the phone: Anyone can listen on the phone by dialing 1-646-558-8656. When the meeting ID is requested, enter 267390984 and then press the # key.
- Watch the meeting online, but not participate: As always with town commission meetings, anyone can watch the livestream at https://www.longboatkey.org/towngovernment/commission-meetings-live.
- Watch the meeting online and provide public comment before the meeting: Follow the instructions in the second step. People can also provide written comments by 10 a.m. Monday. To provide written comments, email Town Clerk Trish Shinkle at [email protected], send regular mail to 501 Bay Isles Road, Longboat Key, FL, 34228, or submit an online form available on the town’s website at www.longboatkey.org.
- Watch the meeting and participate during the public comment and/or public hearing using Zoom: Anyone wanting to speak during the virtual meeting must complete a request-to-speak form by 10 a.m. Monday. The form is available starting at noon Friday. Except for the public hearing agenda item, all public comments will happen at the start of meeting for both agenda and non-agenda items. The town asks for anyone wanting to speak to indicate which specific agenda item number on their request-to-speak form.
Zoom instructions: If using a tablet or smartphone, you will need to download the free Zoom app from your device’s app store. Computers will automatically download and install the Zoom program. People can watch using a computer, tablet or smartphone.
Anyone needing more information or help can contact:
For public comment questions: Trish Shinkle, Town Clerk, [email protected] or (941) 316-1999
For questions on connecting to future meetings: Jason Keen, Information Technology Director, [email protected] or (941) 316-1999.