Officially the Highland Park Town Council met in an emergency session on Thursday to extend Mayor Margo Goodwin’s “Declaration of a Local Disaster for Public Health Emergency” beyond its initial seven days.
But Town Council Member David Dowler also used the occasion to encourage the town’s residents to think about others during this COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think we should consider helping those less fortunate,” Dowler said.
He recommended creative measures such as pre-buying five haircuts to get later when the situation calms down.
“I’m paying my housekeeper not to come,” he added.
Dowler suggested the town share other ideas for helping. “I think we are a generous community.”
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Town council members voted to extend the emergency declaration and tie the specifics to a similar order by Dallas County. The county’s order limits recreational gatherings to 10 or fewer to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The town’s declaration will last as long as the county’s does unless the Town Council votes otherwise.
An emergency meeting could be called with two hours of public notice.
“So we can meet pretty quickly to take this up,” Council member Eric Gambrell said.
The vote to approve came with Mayor Margo Goodwin and council members Dowler, Gambrell, Jimmy Grisham, and Craig Penfold sitting spread out around a table with Mayor Pro Tem John McKnight participating remotely via speakerphone.
“I just wanted to do one of the first telephonic votes in Highland Park history,” McKnight said.
Gambrell corrected him, “It’s not one of the first; it’s the first.”
Highland Park is leaving its parks open but closing its playgrounds.
“We want to do best practices,” Gambrell said. Keeping people from touching “the playground equipment is a best practice.”
The town will keep most tennis courts open but will shut down the two middle ones in Fairfax Park to separate groups of players and avoid a recreational gathering of 10 or more.
“That’s the right solution,” McKnight said. “That way, we don’t have to count heads.”
Steven Alexander, the town’s chief financial officer and director of administrative services, said the town would use signs initially to alert people that playgrounds are off-limits but could fence the equipment off if residents don’t comply voluntarily.
Otherwise, usage of the park should be OK as long as there are no organized activities, and residents separate themselves while taking walks or kicking balls.
“I don’t want to criminalize it at all,” he said.