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.
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.
CRA & Commission Meet Tomorrow – 3 pm
Winter Park Goes Virtual – Not Viral
by Anne Mooney / April 7, 2020
A special meeting of the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) is scheduled tomorrow, April 8, at 3:00 pm. A meeting of the Winter Park City Commission will immediately follow the CRA meeting. Meetings will be virtual, and you must pre-register.
COVID-19 Crisis Response Proposal
The CRA and the City are working with the Chamber of Commerce to propose a community assistance program consisting of four components – utility bill assistance, matching funds support for small businesses, community food and wi-fi support and recovery support. The meetings are for the purpose of discussing and possibly adopting all or part of this program.
To Register for the Meeting
Procedures are the same as for the two previous virtual meetings. Go to https://cityofwinterpark.org/government/live-video-broadcasts and click on the “Live Virtual Meetings” button to register. If you were not registered before, enter your name and email address and click on the “Register” button.
Even if you registered for a previous meeting, you still have to register for this one. When you click the “Live Virtual Meetings” button, the page will already be populated with your information and you can just click the “Register” button.
To Offer Public Comment
There are three ways to offer public comment. You can comment prior to the meeting by emailing email@example.com. Emailed comments will be part of the public record but will not be read aloud during the meeting.
If you want your comment read during the live meeting, use the Public Comment Form at <cityofwinterpark.org/public-comment> Your comments will be read into the record during the live meeting by City staff.
If you do not have internet access, you may comment by phone during the live meeting by calling 407-599-3410. This line will be active only during the meeting.
Residential & Commercial Utilities Support
The first of the four components of the proposal is utility bill assistance through the Heart of Florida United Way 211 Program. For information go to www.hfuw.org/gethelp/
The City has suspended disconnections, late fees and interest payments through May 31. Further reduction in residential and business utility costs will come through a one-month electric fuel rate reduction, which would significantly reduce utility bills.
Small Business Micro-Loans
In partnership with the Chamber of Commerce and private donors, the City proposes to contribute matching funds of up to $500,000 in micro-loans to struggling small businesses. An executive board of community leaders would be formed to oversee the program.
To qualify, the loan recipient would have to be a ‘small business’ – a term, as yet, undefined. The program would be city-wide and not confined to the CRA, and the businesses would not have to be Chamber members. For more information about this proposal, go to https://winterpark.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/CoverSheet.aspx?ItemID=1679&MeetingID=244
Food & Wi-Fi
To address food insecurity, the City will donate $50,000 and work with the 4Rivers Feed the Need Initiative and Second Harvest Food Bank to create a Winter-Park-specific food assistance program.
In partnership with Frog Telecommunications, the City will provide an early launch of fast, free public Wi-Fi available in Central Park and in Shady Park. This item was already budgeted and should be launched within the next four weeks.
The City will support the community during recovery by continuing to maintain City infrastructure and continuing the Business Façade Program that is already underway.
Be Sure to Tune In – 3:00 pm, Wednesday, April 8. Use the Public Comment Form to make your voices heard.
You Must Pre-Register for Virtual Commission Meeting Tomorrow at 5:00
Registration is Open Now
by Anne Mooney / March 29, 2020
The virtual dais at the Live Virtual Commission meeting at 5:00 pm tomorrow night, Monday, March 30, will once again feature five live Commissioners. Newly elected Commissioners Marty Sullivan and Sheila DeCiccio will now be sitting in Seats #1 and #2 respectively.
Our gratitude for their service goes to former Commissioners Greg Seidel and Sarah Sprinkel, who can now watch from the comfort of their homes.
Registration for the Meeting is Open Now
Go to https://cityofwinterpark.org/government/live-video-broadcasts and click on “Live Virtual Meeting” in the yellow banner. That will take you to the registration page.
Public Comment Will Be Taken
As this is a regular meeting of the Commission, public comment will be taken during the meeting. There are three ways for citizens to comment – by email, by submitting a comment form or by phone.
Email — You may comment in advance of the meeting by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Emailed comments will become part of the record but will not be read aloud.
Public Comment Form — If you would like for your comments to be read during the meeting, submit the Public Comment Form found at <cityofwinterpark.org/public-comment> The form will be accessible at 5:00 Monday as the meeting begins.
Phone – If you are unable to submit online comments, the City will activate the public comment phone line at 5:00 pm Monday – 407-599-3410. Calls will be answered by City staff, and your verbal comments will be entered into the online system on your behalf. Phoned-in comments will be read during the meeting as part of the official record.
All comments will be monitored in accordance with City standards of decorum.