On Tuesday, June 2, the Town Council met remotely via Zoom, where it heard updates on issues impacting the community.
The Elephant In The Room
Town Manager Austin Faison addressed the growing national outrage over the killing of an unarmed black man by a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25. Faison, who is one of only three African-American town managers in the Commonwealth, said the news was hitting him particularly hard.
“I’ve been appalled by leadership in the last days. I am embarrassed to work in government,” he said. “We need some real change in how we interact with each other. I’m committed to working toward that goal.”
Winthrop Police Chief Terence Delahanty also weighed in on the ongoing situation, stating that the department had sent out an email to all officers reminding them of its use-of-force policy.
“We understand the protests throughout the United States,” he said. “We support them.”
Chief Delahanty added that the looting and lawlessness was probably not connected to the protestors and their message. Winthrop Police Department has been deploying officers to nearby cities that have experienced an uptick in violent riots in recent days.
In regards to race relations in Winthrop, the chief stated that as the town’s demographics shift, he wants to “build relationships” with all residents and “include them in the decision-making process.”
Crowded Streets and Beaches
During the public comment period of the meeting, residents expressed feeling frustrated by the influx of out-of-town guests and the seeming nonresponse from law enforcement.
“Point Shirley is inundated with visitors. None of them have masks or practice any type of distancing,” said William Rice from Precinct 3. “They have no regard for limited parking in our area. They will take any spot available, sometimes taking up two spaces.”
“They block driveways. I have to sit in my car and wait for a spot to open after work,” said resident Bonnie Houghton, adding that non-residents speed down dead-end streets believing they are through streets. Houghton has even witnessed visitors congregating on her front lawn and not picking up after their dogs.
“There is no social distancing, no masks, no accountability,” echoed resident Dawn Manning.
It’s not only residential streets that are seeing crowds. Council President Phil Boncore stated he has witnessed large groups of people on the beaches disregarding safety precautions.
“None of our young people are following [protocol],” he said. “Talk to your youngsters. If you’re a young person, protect the people.”
Currently, groups of ten family members are allowed to visit Winthrop beaches as long as they remain 12 feet from other groups and wear masks when not in the water. Beach games like volleyball are not permitted.
Town Manager Faison and CFO Anna Freedman have been working on developing a more realistic town budget for fiscal year 2021 in light of the economic fallout of COVID-19. They reduced anticipated revenues from local receipts and state aid by about $1 million, and are looking into receiving COVID-19 relief aid from the CARES Act. There are no proposed layoffs, though furloughs are being explored. Council will vote on the new budget at its next meeting on June 17.
Until November 1, restaurants can offer outdoor seating as soon as they submit their safety plan to the local licensing authority. Tables must be spaced six feet apart, seat no more than six family members, and must not block sidewalks. Restaurants will be able to use awnings, heating, lighting and tents that are at least 50 percent open.
The School Committee reported that students and staff are in the process of removing their personal belongings from school property. The Arthur T. Cumming playground will break ground on June 3 and will be available for use in Phase 3 or 4 of reopening. A temperature-sensing camera will be used at the start of the school year to identify students who may have a fever. There will be a senior graduation on July 13 at Miller Field.
The Winthrop Board of Health informed that COVID-19 is “trending down” and that it is currently assisting local business owners with reopening efforts. The Winthrop Foundation donated $26,000 to feed the food-insecure in Winthrop.
The Airport Hazards Committee announced that a barge will be parked at Runway 27 for three to four weeks for repair.