Belle Glade chimes in with DeSantis order, approves mural project

BELLE GLADE — City commissioners met in a special session Thursday afternoon, April 2, endorsed the governor’s latest statewide orders regarding the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak and reaffirmed their state of emergency declaration.

They also talked over, then unanimously endorsed a proposal from citizen Katrina Finney to create a county grant-financed mural on the Lake Shore Civic Center and Resource Center, 1224 S.W. Avenue E Place.

“I’m not applying for the grant myself,” she told the commissioners. Under the Neighborhood Engagement and Transformation (NEAT) Grants Program, the application had to come from a community organization and is being filed by a church pastor in Belle Glade, she said.

The Palm Beach County Office of Community Revitalization (OCR) accepted applications for its NEAT Grants Program until March 31. The program provides allowances of up to $10,000 to neighborhood-based groups and/or organizations for resident-driven neighborhood improvement projects.

Ms. Finney explained that the first one they did as a community project was at the Lake Shore Middle School courtyard, “and we’re currently doing a mural at Glades Central (High School).” Then they asked about doing another and the idea came up to paint one on the civic center. She passed out copies of the application to the commissioners, saying, “As long as we can keep doing it, we’re doing it.”

Mayor Wilson noted that there would be no cost to the city and called the applicants “strong advocates for the community.” It was stated that work financed through the NEAT grants “is a good way to give school kids public service hours they need.”

She said the deadlines could change due to the COVID-19 pandemic but that right now, they’re tight because the deadline for spending the grants in full is currently May 31, 2021. She stated she thought they could begin the civic center murals (on more than one side of the building) by perhaps October.

Editor’s note: Due to a weak Wi-Fi signal inside City Hall, it was difficult to follow parts of the meeting, as it was broadcast audio-only from the commission chamber and was available only by teleconference. No further information was available on this matter by deadline for this story.

Guardians of the Glades hosts town hall meeting

Also on Thursday, Guardians of the Glades and DJ Church Boy (Albert V. Polk IV) broadcast on their Facebook Live pages a Virtual Town Hall Meeting to keep residents informed on the latest developments regarding coronavirus.

Belle Glade Mayor Steve Wilson explained the commission’s action during the town hall. He started by thanking all the county and state officials who have provided guidance during this difficult time:

“Thank you to all our representatives … and to all of the county staff and city staff today. Folks, it is evident that we are at war — war with an invisible adversary, a virus that seems to attack one’s immune system, a virus that our medical experts are working around the clock to find a cure for.

“But the questions are and have been, ‘What is the City of Belle Glade doing to keep its citizens out of harm’s way?’ So let me tell you. As of 3 o’clock today, the city commissioners voted and approved a stay-at-home advisory in accordance with the governor’s Executive Order 20-91, dated April 1, which goes into effect midnight tonight.

“The purpose of this advisory is to encourage folks to please stay at home for non-essential matters. Please note, ladies and gentlemen, this … advisory is not intended to cause more havoc or inconvenience for you but only to assure that we as a city are doing everything humanly possible to combat COVID-19.

“Yes, the city is conducting business, but it’s not business as usual. We’re doing business by appointments, phone calls, emails and by fax. We have a limited staff, but we’re still ready to serve.

“Again, we strongly urge all of you to comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and the governor’s order. We realize that there’s still a lot of unanswered questions about the disease itself, but the truth of the matter is we’re going to have to trust the doctors and the scientists to do what they do best.

“But most of all, let us know that our spiritual belief and our faith tell us that this crisis, too, shall pass. But … we have to do it together by practicing social distancing, keeping a safe distance from each other. … God bless you all.”

The commission also gave direction to senior city staff members on whether they should continue to limit some lower staffers’ hours, permission to work from home and schedules.

City Clerk Debra Buff said by email on Friday that “with regards to employee hours, we are still on a reduced workweek, 20 hours per week, with the exception of sanitation (employees), who will be working their normal hours.”

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