PINELLAS COUNTY (CW44 News at 10) – In a three hour long annual Budget Info Session meeting, Pinellas County Commissioners took a look back at the county’s economic details. Covid-19 has had an effect on revenue worldwide, but officials are projecting there will also be an impact that we haven’t even seen yet.
When it comes to Parks and Recreation in Pinellas County, the most significant Covid-19 impact thus far is decreased revenue collections like beach parking fees and camping.
“The temporary closing of beaches and shelters resulted in a 1.3 million dollar loss of revenue. The pandemic has also caused an increased focus on sanitizing county park facilities and equipment, proper staff PPE use, and social distancing of park staff and guests,” said Shane Kunze, Former Strategic Management Analyst for Parks and Conservation Resources
Despite the negative financial impact, county officials say some parks saw record attendance as residents sought out green spaces during closures and social distancing mandates.
And speaking of being outdoors, during the budget session, County Administrators announced they are designing a plan for more recreation parks, which would mean new basketball courts, playgrounds and more.
“We’ve received feedback from the school board, the school district. We’re incorporating that. Next step is to go to the City of Largo, get their input on that design. We’re looking to use Penny for Pinellas dollars, CDBG dollars, as well as state dollars. We do have 500,000 dollars in the final state budget,” said Brian Lowack, Asst. County Administrator for Central and Southern Pinellas County.
But we won’t be rushing to use them anytime soon. With the pandemic still a threat officials are looking ahead at how to tackle a potential second wave.
“We’re going to do a review of all our Covid efforts. We’re not taking our foot off the gas. We’re preparing for a second wave,” said Barry Burton, Pinellas County Administrator.
The Local State of Emergency was extended through June 19th which allows for county reimbursements, PPE, and more. But officials are warning, social distancing is priority right now.
“Whether it’s a governor’s order or not, it increases your risk! We have a number of new cases each day. When you’re out in the community, you put yourself at risk, you put others at risk. We still need to be vigilant, we still need to be safe,” said Burton.
Pinellas County schools were also part of the discussion. A team of medical professionals is working to figure out the safest way to bring students back, however, officials say there are no signs of opening up just yet.