City Approves $1 Million+ in Community Support

But, Will the Chickens Ever Come Home to Roost?

by Anne Mooney / April 12, 2020

The City Commission met in a special session April 8 to discuss the City’s coronavirus response and to approve funding assistance for Winter Park residents during the shutdown. The City has partnered with the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce to come up with the following measures.

    • $25,000 donation to Second Harvest Food Bank for Winter Park residents. For information about receiving food or making donations go to feedhopenow.org
    • $75,000 donation to Feed the Need Program for Winter Park residents. Beginning April 14, free meals will be available at the Community Center on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 3:00 to 5:00 pm, while supplies last. Walk up or drive through.
    • $50,000 in direct and matching funds to Residential Utility Bill Assistance through Heart of Florida United Way 2-1-1 program. If you are a utility customer who needs assistance, you can do a virtual chat with a 2-1-1 representative by going to HFUW.org/Chat
    • Suspension of late fees, interest payments and service disconnects for water and electricity until further notice. Customers can contact Utility Billing customer service at 407-599-3220 for flexible repayment options. 
    • An Electrical Fuel Rate Holiday resulting in reductions in total residential electric bills for the month of May 2020.
    • Free WiFi at Central Park and Shady Park.

Micro-loan program

Also discussed was a micro-loan program, jointly funded by the CRA and the City, for Winter Park small businesses that are struggling. Although $250,000 in matching funds was budgeted, there is no clear path to implementation.

To put this program in motion, the City is banking on help that may be hard to get. Lacking the necessary skills and manpower to administer a loan program, the City had planned to enlist the support of a local bank or banks for their lending expertise. The banks, however, are stretched to the limit administering unwieldy State and Federal assistance programs. The demand is overwhelming, leaving the banks without the capacity to assist the City. In addition, the City’s $250,000 contribution requires a matching donation of locally-raised private funds – and this is a difficult time for anyone who’s had the courage to look at their 401(k) lately.

According to an April 10 Press Release from the City, “Details for this program are still being finalized and will be presented for CRA Board approval at a future date.”

Fowl is Fair

At the end of the meeting in the ‘Commissioner Reports’ period, Commissioner Todd Weaver gave the other Commissioners a pullet surprise by bringing up the topic of Backyard Chickens. Surrounding communities, including Maitland and Orlando, have successful programs, but the worm has not yet turned in Winter Park.

The last attempted chicken coup was in 2016, when the Keep Winter Park Beautiful and Sustainable Advisory Board proposed a Backyard Chicken pilot program. The plan called for City Staff to issue temporary permits and work with each permit holder to assess how well the program would work in Winter Park. That plan never hatched.

Now, despite the success of other well-established urban programs and passionate pleas from local residents for a few backyard hens, the response from the other four Commissioners is tepid. Mayor Steve Leary agreed to bring the subject up for discussion at the April 13 Commission Meeting, but only for discussion, not as an action item.

Weaver acknowledged that Backyard Chickens may seem like a small thing in the face of a global pandemic – unless you’re an egg-lover who has left the Publix egg aisle empty-handed. In these days of limited social contact, many people are turning to their own gardens for sustenance, and a couple of hens could lay enough eggs to provide some much-needed protein.

So, if you run into a Commissioner who’s on the fence, you might consider egging them on to cross the road to support Poultry in Motion.

 

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    By: Anne Mooney

    Anne Mooney has assumed the editorship of the Winter Park Voice from founding editor Tom Childers.

    Mooney got her start in New York as a freelance line editor for book publishers, among them Simon & Schuster and the Clarkson Potter division of Crown Books. From New York, she and her husband and their year-old toddler moved to Washington, D.C., where the two ran a newswire service for Harper’s magazine. “We called it Network News,” said Mooney, “because it was a network of the Harper’s writers, whose work we edited into newspaper style and format and sold to papers in the top U.S. and Canadian markets. We were sort of like a tiny UPI.”

    The newswire ceased operation with the death of Mooney’s first husband, but Mooney continued to write and edit, doing freelance work for Williams Sonoma cookbooks and for local publications in D.C.

    In 2005, Mooney moved to Winter Park, where she worked as a personal chef and wrote a regular food column for a south Florida magazine. She took an active interest in Winter Park politics and was there when the Winter Park Voice was founded. She wrote occasional pieces for the Voice, including the Childers bio that this piece replaces.

    The Winter Park Voice is one of a large number of “hyper-local” publications that have sprung up across the U.S. in response to the decline of the major daily newspapers and the resulting deficit of local news coverage. The Voice’sbeat is Winter Park City Hall, and its purpose is to help the residents of our city better understand the political forces that shape our daily lives.

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