Billings township requests input on how it can help local businesses during pandemic

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KAGAWONG – Billings council hosted a virtual town hall meeting last week to hear from local businesses  concerning impacts and challenges they have faced stemming from COVID-19 with further meetings to take place in the future.

“There were a few recommendations made by businesspeople and council at the meeting and we will be looking at these recommendations,” said Billings Mayor Ian Anderson in a Monday interview. “It was a very positive meeting.”

Councillor Bryan Barker told the Recorder, “we will be trying to have these meetings on a fairly regular basis.” He pointed out several local businesses took part. “We wanted to get input from the businesses on how we as a township can assist these businesses during this difficult times.” He pointed out Billings economic development officer (EDO) Todd Gordon was the moderator for the meeting. 

Councillor Barker explained businesses are concerned that the access to the Bridal Veil Falls is still closed (due to COVID-19 and the need for physical distancing). “We’ve been monitoring this situation and there is still a lot of non-compliance with barricades being taken down. We even had to put plywood at the top and bottom of the stairs to the falls and to the trails to keep people from going into the pool under the falls.” 

“We’ve offered the local businesses something that we wouldn’t normally do, but something that we will this year, to allow businesses to advertise their location, phone number and website to let people know they are open on a sign to be put at the wire fence at the Bridal Veil Falls site. We all thought this was a great idea and it was very well received.”

As well, for businesses such as cabin rentals or who work in offices that need access to cleaning supplies, masks and sanitizers, “we as a township might have avenues to assist them in picking up these type of supplies, even if it is looked at centralized or on an Island-wide basis,” said Councillor Barker.
“We also talked about our (township) website, and maybe extend business promotions on it,” continued Councillor Barker. “One of the businesses said that our current website is hard to read and needs to be revamped, so it was felt Facebook might be a better way we can help promote the businesses, listing their hours of business for instance.”

“One of the businesses said there is also a need in the community for better broadband services. We are very aware of this, like all the municipalities on the Island and we are trying to tap into government funding to improve these services. This has been an issue Island-wide for at least the past couple of years. Broadband service is terribly expensive, and we need Island-wide or an even greater area participating,” he said, noting the province of Ontario recently announced they are putting about $1.5 million into broadband service. 

Councillor Barker said more virtual town hall meetings with local businesses will continue in the future.