Dysart et al officially launched its COVID-19 Community Recovery Task Force June 11.

The task force aims to support community and municipal relief efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic. The task force includes both council and public members, which is making recommendations to Dysart council about recovery.

Chair and deputy mayor Patrick Kennedy said the group has a diverse background in municipal operations, and arts, cultural and business sectors.

“The task force will function not only as a focal point for community-driven ideas, input and solutions, but will also be a resource for the community to help navigate the myriad of programs and assistance available,” Kennedy said.

The municipality said the task force will identify the needs of community groups and organizations to determine how the municipality can best assist them. The task force will also help businesses work through their economic challenges, address the municipal financial impact and modify municipal programming based on lessons learned amidst the pandemic.

From the municipality, the task force includes Kennedy, Mayor Andrea Roberts, Coun. Larry Clarke, CAO Tamara Wilbee and incumbent clerk Mallory Bishop. Public members include David O’Brien, Jim Blake and Andrew Hodgson.

Hodgson, Century 21 owner and Rotary Club of Haliburton member, said he is excited by the opportunity and it is good the municipality is doing this. He added the task force should be there to help community members.

“I’m hoping we’ll come up with some innovative ideas,” Hodgson said. “People can come to us for resources, other government programs, other things that may be going on.”

Roberts said the municipality needed to think ahead even as it works on the pandemic from a public health and operations perspective.

“It was imperative that we create the task force now, in order to gather and provide information to our business and not-for-profit community, to help navigate our pandemic recovery,” Roberts said.

Recovery efforts are getting concentrated at the lower-tier municipal level after County council opted not to go for a more County-wide approach. County council briefly discussed the idea again at a special meeting June 10 but opted out.

“Stay the course, we made our decision,” Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin said. “We missed the opportunity a couple of months ago.”

Roberts said they could still work collectively if County-specific issues come up through the recovery process.

“There’s still opportunity, but I’m happy with the way things are going,” she said.

Hodgson said the task force will still need to rely on provincial decision-making.

“We’re not expecting to have miracles. There’s no big, huge glob of money that we have,” he said. “But I’m excited to be part of a big group that’s thinking positive.”

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