City Adopts COVID Vaccine Policy

City Adopts COVID Vaccine Policy

City Adopts COVID Vaccine Policy

Protects City Workers & Residents

by Anne Mooney / September 9, 2021

On Sept. 9, the Orlando Sentinel reported a story titled “Unvaccinated employees face firing.”

In fact, termination of employment would be the last resort, and would not take place without due process. The City’s COVID-19 vaccination and testing policy is clearly laid out in a document in the September 8 Commission Meeting Agenda Packet. Highlights of that policy are below, and are anything but draconian.

COVID-19 Requirements

The City’s COVID-19 testing policy states, “All City employees are required no later than September 20, 2021 to either (a) establish that they have been fully vaccinated . . . or (b) produce weekly negative COVID-19 test results . . . . Vaccination and/or testing is required even if an employee previously tested positive for COVID-19. . . . To facilitate employees receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, the City will allow employees to attain the vaccine while on duty. . . .”

Testing Procedures for City Employees

City policy goes on to state: “Employees who do not provide documentation establishing that they are fully vaccinated shall be required to undergo diagnostic testing once weekly. . . .”

Testing will be scheduled by the City, paid for by the City at a City-approved location during the employee’s working hours. An employee who prefers to be tested off-hours at their own expense must use an FDA approved PCR or antigen test and provide the results to Human Resources.

Employees who test positive for COVID-19 will be required to quarantine in accordance with CDC guidelines.

Failure to comply

Effective September 27, employees who do not provide proof of full vaccination and who fail to provide a negative COVID-19 test weekly may be placed on unpaid leave until they provide proof of full vaccination and/or a negative test result. These employees may be subject to discipline up to and including discharge from employment. Employees seeking medical or religious accommodation should contact Human Resources. Falsification of immunization documentation, test results or accommodation request will be grounds for dismissal.

City falls short of 65 percent goal

On August 2, the City announced a voluntary employee COVID-19 vaccination incentive to encourage unvaccinated employees to become fully vaccinated by September 20. Education and incentives, however, failed to convince enough employees to become vaccinated. At the September 8 Commission meeting, City Manager Randy Knight reported 218 City employees had submitted proof of full vaccination – 35 employees short of the 316 employees it would take to reach the 65 percent threshold of 316 employees.

Acknowledging its responsibility to its employees to provide a work environment conducive to the safe delivery of City services, the City has implemented the policy outlined above.

What is ‘herd immunity’?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) website, herd immunity occurs when a given disease ceases to spread among a population. In terms of population percentage required, herd immunity is different for each disease. Herd immunity for measles is 95 percent, while for polio the threshold is 80 percent. No one yet knows what herd immunity is for COVID-19, only that we’re nowhere near it.

Asked for his opinion about the current vaccination policy, Commissioner Marty Sullivan had this to say. “From a personal standpoint, polio extremely affected our family when my sister got it in 1948. After that, there was no question about vaccines. When they became available, we just did it. No questions asked.

“The Salk vaccine eradicated polio in this country because, all at once, everyone got the vaccine. If we had all gotten vaccinated against COVID-19 early on, we could have avoided the Delta variant breakthrough.

Sullivan went on to explain, “The Salk vaccine was released in 1955. By 1957, after mass vaccinations, the number of cases recorded annually in the U.S. fell from 58,000 to 5,600 cases. By 1961, the U.S. recorded only 161 cases. We will be living with COVID-19 for as long as people refuse to get vaccinated. Not a good prospect for us.”

 

To comment or read comments from others, click here →

City Urges Employees: Get Vaxxed!

City Urges Employees: Get Vaxxed!

City Urges Employees: Get Vaxxed!

by Anne Mooney / August 19, 2021

At the July 28 Commission meeting, City Manager Randy Knight was asked to develop an incentive program to encourage City employees to become vaccinated against COVID-19. On Monday, Aug. 2, Knight introduced a voluntary incentive program that awarded any employee with proof of full vaccination a $150 bonus plus a day off with pay. To qualify for the incentive program, employees would have to produce proof of full vaccination by September 15.

Weekly COVID tests required for unvaccinated employees

Beginning September 20, employees who are unable or unwilling to present proof of vaccination will undergo mandatory weekly testing. Any unvaccinated employee who is unable to provide a negative COVID-19 test result each week will be placed on leave without pay until they are able to produce a negative test result.

65 Percent by September 15

The City’s goal is for 65 percent of employees to be fully vaccinated by September 15. If fewer than 65 percent of employees participate in the voluntary vaccination program, the Commission will call a special meeting to determine next steps.

The City employs a total of 540 people; 472 are full-time, 47 are part-time, and 21 are seasonal or temporary. The 65 percent threshold, to be achieved by September 15, translates to 351 employees. According to Communications Director Clarissa Howard, as of August 18, 224 employees had provided proof of full vaccination.

KN95 masks available on request

In the meantime, KN95 masks are available to all employees upon request, and the City is following CDC guidelines for wearing face coverings while in public indoor facilities where 6-foot social distancing cannot be observed.

What is ‘herd immunity?’

The goal of vaccinating 65 percent of employees is based on an arbitrary estimate of vaccination levels required to reach ‘herd immunity.’ The percentage of people who need to be immune to achieve herd immunity varies with each disease, and the medical community does not yet know the level required for COVID-19.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “herd immunity against measles requires about 95% of a population to be vaccinated. The remaining 5% will be protected by the fact that measles will not spread among those who are vaccinated. For polio, the threshold is about 80 percent.”

“The proportion of the population that must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to begin inducing herd immunity is not yet known,” according to the WHO website. “This is an important area of research and will likely vary according to the community, the vaccine, the populations prioritized for vaccination, and other factors.

“Until we better understand COVID-19 immunity, it will not be possible to know how much of a population is immune or how long that immunity will last, let alone can we make future predictions.”

To comment or read comments from others, click here →

“What If there Were No Buildings?”

“What If there Were No Buildings?”

“What If there Were No Buildings?”

Progress Point Park Gets Thumbs Up – No RFP

by Anne Mooney / August 16, 2021

Kicking off yet another discussion at the August 11 Commission meeting of what to do with Progress Point, Mayor Phil Anderson posed the question, “What if there were no buildings?”

Will there be an RFP?

While the agenda item for last Wednesday’s meeting referred to a “Continuation of Progress Point & Potential RFP,” this Commission finally heard the question: What IF there were no buildings? As Commissioners discussed the possibilities at Progress Point, the question of the Request for Proposal (RFP) and built structures took a back seat to the desire for open green space and the need for parking for existing businesses in the area.

Commissioner Todd Weaver explained that the Commission agreed to limit future buildings on Progress Point to 9 percent Floor Area Ratio (FAR) – which translates to about 14,000 square feet on two floors. “We didn’t go out with an RFP,” said Weaver, “because if the current parking needs for existing businesses are met, there is no space for parking an additional 14,000 square feet of commercial space without building a parking garage.”

There will be no RFP and no buildings on Progress Point Park – at least, not for now.

Progress Point has a bit of history

For years, discussions leading up to Wednesday night’s meeting had to do with what could or should be built on Progress Point, an oddly shaped piece of property the City acquired in a controversial 2011 land swap in which the City traded to CNL Bank the large rectangular parcel across from the new Library-Events Center at the northwest corner of Denning Dr. and Morse Blvd. for the scruffy plot down by the railroad tracks on South Denning. The parcel on Denning and Morse, once home to the old State Office Building, now boasts a shiny new building full of Class A office space. Progress Point is looking better, too, since uninhabitable buildings were cleared and the grass is cut regularly.

Natural Environment vs. Built Environment

Plans for Progress Point, which until now were all about the so-called ‘built environment,’ stalled when the Orange Avenue Overlay (OAO) ordinance was rescinded. A recent citizen petition with more than 500 signatures called for the City to ‘Keep It [Progress Point] Green.’ Petition organizers pointed out that of the four options for Progress Point previously presented by City planners, not one was a park – a natural environment as opposed to a built environment. The possibility of putting just a park there, with no buildings in it, had not been considered.

Phased Organic Approach

On August 11, the Commissioners gave Progress Point that consideration. Commissioner Carolyn Cooper urged her fellow Commissioners to adopt what she called a phased, organic approach. “We should slow this process down,” said Cooper. “Let’s take care of the park, the storm water treatment, realign Palmetto Avenue, build the bike and pedestrian path and make sure there is adequate parking for the existing businesses.”

Enter Orange Avenue Merchants Association

Once the park is in place, said Cooper, the Commission should support the Orange Avenue merchants in their efforts to activate the park. “Give them a chance to take ownership,” she said, “and see what they want the park to be.”

Progress Point becomes a park

For the time being, Commissioners agreed to build a park with paths and large mature shade trees. Park amenities will include the realignment of Palmetto Avenue closer to the railroad tracks, which will increase space for parking, green space and a bike and pedestrian path. Decorative lighting will be installed for safety and aesthetics along paths and in parking lots. Approximately 120 parking spaces will be provided for park users and existing businesses, and parking will be free of charge. No decision has been reached about City funding for a park maintenance building or restrooms for park users, but discussion of these amenities is ongoing.

OAO completion scheduled for late November – early December 2021

The Orange Avenue Overlay ordinance is tentatively scheduled for a second and final reading in late fall of this year. There is cautious optimism that ongoing litigation between the City and major landowners Demetree and Holler will wind up, and the OAO will finally become a reality.

City Planning and Transportation Director Bronce Stephenson estimates that tree planting in the park could begin as soon as December 2021, and that park plans would be completed for Commission approval by first quarter 2022.

Green space with paths and shade trees located midway between two potentially high-density developments will give residents respite. As one citizen commenter observed, “We don’t need to activate the park; we need the park to activate the corridor. Imagine what Park Avenue would be without Central Park.”

To comment or read comments from others, click here →

Open Letter to Mayor & Commissioners

Open Letter to Mayor & Commissioners

Open Letter to Mayor & Commissioners

Keep It Green!

by Guest Columnist Charley Williams / August 6, 2021

I invite this commission to put on their long-range visioning glasses and gaze five to ten years into the future — though many would say that falls short of “long-range.”

Orange Avenue Overlay will evolve

In 2030 I envision Orange Ave. as a walking mall, with no cars but plenty of cafes and other dining options. In fact, the OAO could evolve into a second downtown. If large property holders move forward we could have a hotel with outdoor seating, food and music.

Should the Jewett holding be sold to a retail development arm, we could have an entertainment zone as an anchor. Time will tell. Significant property ownership transfers are already underway.

Evolution requires green space

These pressures bring into sharp focus the need for passive, quiet green space, not just for existing neighborhoods in the immediate vicinity, but also for the tenants of new condo and rental properties still in the planning phases.

Link in the Emerald Necklace

Let’s zero in on the 4.5 acres at Progress Point — a logical keystone in the evolving ‘green necklace’ of the pedestrian-bike trail that will connect Mead Garden with Denning with MLK, Jr. Park and beyond.  Progress Point is the poster child for how that plan can emerge and blossom. It’s a brand identifier for our community.

What do citizens want on Progress Point?

The question now is on asset development of the Progress Point real estate. What do citizens want? We’ve heard references to retail space ranging from 7,000 to 13,000 square feet to upwards of 40,000 square feet—the size of a Publix. But none of these recommendations came from residents.

We run the risk of setting up an East End Market scenario, which often turns into a drive-by because there is overtaxed parking capacity and a plethora of ‘attitude’ signs from the neighbors warning against illegal parking.

Original purpose of Overlay was to benefit existing business

How do you control noise and congestion with a micro-brewery and rooftop live music after the sun goes down? Not to mention overflow parking and traffic pressures for the immediate nearby neighborhoods and parking displacement for the existing businesses on the avenue. Wasn’t that the original objective to begin with – to protect and benefit the existing businesses? Why the mission drift?

Are you putting residents first?

What’s now being proposed can totally change that neighborhood character. Is this what this Commission wants to be saddled with—when many of your campaigns promised to put residents first?

A 14,000-square-foot venue drives the need for more parking. Why do that? We have already identified parking as a priority service for existing businesses. Let’s address the needs of existing Orange Avenue businesses first, before taking any action on new development.

Test your assumptions with the voters

To date, the Commission has spent months putting crayon marks on a Progress Point master plan, but not once have they invited citizen input.

There is no other existing Winter Park park with a retail component within its boundaries.

How about a Pilot Program

One possible compromise would be to pilot the micro-retail experiment first with Cady Way Trail and Showalter Field to give cyclists, joggers and sports enthusiasts options for food and drink. There is a much larger park footprint to work with there.

How has this commission changed from the last one?

Many of us watched as two structures ate up 26 percent of MLK, Jr. Park and occasioned the removal of over 50 mature trees that provided much-needed shade. One result of that long and torturous fight was the demonstration of the will of the citizens to change the direction of the Commission. At least now, there is not a four-story office building with associated parking structure of equal size slated for Progress Point.

Keep it green!

But it’s time to swing the pendulum further. Keep what we have green and start looking for more future sources of open greenspace.

To comment or read comments from others, click here →

WP Land Trust on Progress Point

WP Land Trust on Progress Point

WP Land Trust on Progress Point

Recommendations to the WP City Commission

by Guest Columnist Bob Bendick / July 18, 2021

Land Trust Mission

The Winter Park Land Trust is a non-profit organization managed by a volunteer citizen board of trustees. The mission of the land trust is to plan, help finance, and manage the acquisition of land and interests in land to be used for the creation, expansion, improvement, and connecting of parkland and green space within and adjacent to the City of Winter Park.

Land Trust Vision

Our vision is that the Land Trust will help to ensure that Winter Park and surrounding communities will be an area with sufficient parks and open space, where the footprint of existing parks will be increased, and wherever possible, parks and green spaces will be connected in order to balance and reduce the adverse impacts of increasing development and population density. Attractive green space will then always be an important asset and characteristic of the Winter Park area.

The Winter Park Land Trust Board has followed the discussions concerning the design and configuration of a park at the Progress Point property. The Land Trust Board met on July 12, 2021, and adopted recommendations concerning Progress Point.

On July 12, 2021, the Land Trust board of trustees wrote to the City Commission:

The Winter Park Land Trust recommends that the City of Winter Park maximize the amount of land devoted to greenspace in the Progress Point parcel and that it connects that greenspace through walkways and bikeways with other city parks and open spaces. Toward that end, we recommend that the city should:

  1. Begin immediately to design and build a 1.5 to 2.0-acre park at Progress Point and the greenway connecting that site to Mead Garden and designate that land as a park in the city’s comprehensive plan.
  2. Design the park to be part of the larger greenways system described below.
  3. Restrooms are an appropriate use of park land.
  4. Seek funding to enhance the greenway connection between the Progress Point site and Martin Luther King Park and to create a new Greenway link between M.L. King Park along Morse Avenue to Central Park. A short connection between M.L. King and the Winter Park Community Center would also be desirable as is the connection between Progress Point and the Winter Park Tennis Center.
  5. Reserve decisions on the use of the balance of the Progress Point land until the Orange Avenue Overlay plan is completed and there is a sense of likely additional private development in the area with the objective of maximizing the creation of greenspace including through tree planting, usable open space and pedestrian-friendly walkways.
  6. Complete the design of the Progress Point Park such that it:
    • Includes ample use of large shade trees;
    • Emphasizes pedestrian and bicycle access;
    • Is safe for users including children, considering the adjacent street and railroad tracks;
    • Uses materials consistent with those historically used in Winter Park;
    • Is durable and practical to maintain.
  7. Proceed with updating the City’s Parks Plan as a guide to future park development.

Bob Bendick is a founding member of the Winter Park Land Trust Board of Trustees.

To comment or read comments from others, click here →