The other day I went to four local businesses. The first was a quick stop for an early morning coffee with my wife on Dearborn Street, then Publix, Beach Liquor, and Lowe’s. All four were open, fully functioning, safe, willing, even eager to serve the public, following the prescribed CDC guidelines.
Because of the Federal government’s guidance, which includes masks and social distancing, the private sector employees that work for companies like Publix, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Walmart, and Target can safely serve thousands of customers daily. But for some reason our public sector employees still operate under a self-imposed higher standard of safety, which is politically commendable, but functionally irritating.
Why am I irritated? Because the public sector seems to forgotten that their employees, like the rest of us, live beyond their employment bubbles for 16 additional hours a day, plus weekends and holidays, during which they shop, dine, travel, interact with people, handle paper and retail products. Which brings me back to the topic, reemergence. How do we get out of this new public service normal before it becomes permanent?
Just for fun, I wandered through the Sarasota County website, www.scgov.net and found a 4-page document entitled: “Sarasota County Re-Entry Planning”. That made me smile remembering President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous saying: “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” In that plan, one thing struck me from the list of four key points: Guidance from the CDC, Governor’s orders, Guidance from County leadership and Departmental specific operational considerations. Which one was it? Or was it two?
“Guidance from County leadership” was number one of course because it seems to imply that our elected commissioners have public service emergence influence. Naturally, that lead me to the websites of each candidate for County Commission and I read their statements regarding the current pandemic and their opinions about ongoing public services; you should too. While you are reading, visit the Sarasota County Library’s and the Building Department’s web pages and I suspect, like me, you will close those sites shocked at how sheltered some of our County employees have become, for eight hours a day.
Now the good news; “Departmental specific operational considerations” are alive and well, specifically, our Englewood Community Redevelopment Area Advisory Board (CRA). The other day I asked for a downtown project update and I was pleasantly surprised with their answer.
“Although the CRA office is still physically closed, it is business as usual for the CRA staff. Questions and concerns from the community are addressed via phone and email, improvement projects continue to move forward, information is shared through the CRA’s electronic newsletter, and marketing and storefront improvement meetings continue to be scheduled and conducted remotely.”
The Plaza and Dearborn Street improvement updates.
Dearborn Street Plaza: This project is still moving forward with the added new restroom component. Staff is finalizing the permit approvals and then the project will go out for bid. The bid process takes approximately 45 days. We anticipate construction beginning in September/October 2020. The construction will take approximately 60-90 days.
West Dearborn Improvement Project: This project is still moving forward. Easement documents were mailed out to property owners on June 12, 2020. Easements sometimes require 3-5 months for execution. Once the executed easement documents are returned, the project will go out for bid and then scheduled before the Board of County Commission for the award of the bid. This project could be ready to begin construction in January/February 2021, but because of the impact that COVID-19 has already had on local businesses, staff is recommending that construction not begin until mid/late April 2021.
Sarasota County staff can be reached at 941-473-9796 or email@example.com with questions and concerns. We are looking forward to opening our physical doors as soon as we receive approval to do so…I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have any other questions, or if there is anything else I can assist you with.”
Why was I happy with this reply? Because it restored my faith in our public service employees that continue to perform, unseen, during this difficult period of complicated protocols. However, if you, like me, would like to see the old public services “normal” return then please let your elected representatives know.
To learn more or share your opinions, please join us this fall as the Old Englewood Village Associations (OEVA) kicks off their town hall meetings, on the Plaza property when permitted. Until then, you can reach us thru the website, www.OldeEngelwood.com.