By Joseph Quigley

Algonquin Highlands announced it was shutting down its community centres and council committee meetings as of March 13 in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

All programming and events at the community centres in Stanhope, Dorset and Oxtongue Lake are also cancelled until further notice. Mayor Carol Moffatt said the Algonquin Highlands Emergency Operations Centre met Friday to discuss the pandemic and appropriate response.

Moffatt said in a Facebook post the measures would “protect the broadest range of people within our community.”

“With only five councillors and just over 30 employees, Algonquin Highlands doesn’t have an over-abundance of staff to manage municipal functions should the virus come calling,” Moffatt said. “There is a tremendous influx of people into our community over March break.”


Moffatt specified that the closure included the Dorset Recreation Centre and the municipality will contact any person or group who uses or plans to use the facilities. Municipal committee meetings are also suspended, except for the committee of adjustment due to legislated timelines. Staff and firefighters will also take enhanced protocols for hygiene, personal space, and cleaning.

“The Township of Algonquin Highlands encourages the public to be attentive to hygiene, respiratory etiquette and to be vigilant around vulnerable citizens,” Moffatt said.

The decision is not immediately being matched by Algonquin’s neighbouring municipalities.

Highlands East Mayor Dave Burton said it is not taking similar measures to Algonquin Highlands yet.

“Highlands East is fully aware of the seriousness of the pandemic and is monitoring the situation closely. At this time, Highlands East will not be closing our centers or halting programming over the weekend,” Burton told The Highlander. “If things should change or concerns arise, we will be sure to pass along any updates as we receive them.”

Neither Dysart et al or Minden Hills had announced the closure of public facilities over the weekend, though Dysart did cancel public skating and shinny at A.J. LaRue Arena March 15 and 16. Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts and Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin said their respective municipal emergency control groups would meet March 16 to discuss next steps.

County of Haliburton CAO Mike Rutter said the County Emergency Control Group, the group of officials that oversees emergency management operations, is meeting March 16 to discuss the Coronavirus. A public release is expected to follow.

Moffatt said Algonquin Highlands will provide an update every Friday until normal operations resume.

“We thank the public for their understanding of our obligation toward safety regarding public spaces and the general well-being of the community,” she said.

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