The Royal Palm Beach Village Council agreed Thursday, Sept. 17 to allow limited gatherings at public parks, with the exception of the annual Veterans Day event, which this year will be a virtual ceremony due to the age demographic of local veterans, which puts them in a high-risk category for COVID-19.
The discussion came up during the proposed approval of two events, Concert/Movie Nights & Gourmet Truck Expos at Royal Palm Beach Commons Park every Friday from Oct. 2 through Dec. 18, and the Royal Palm Beach Green Market & Bazaar held Saturdays from Oct. 10 through April 30 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Village Hall campus. Both items were pulled from the consent agenda for discussion.
Village Manager Ray Liggins said the return to social gatherings was not specifically due to the decrease in COVID-19 cases but a return to outdoor events allowed under current CDC restrictions.
“We’re not going to the next phase of having events because we’re seeing the end of COVID-19,” Liggins said. “What we’re doing is we’re learning how to live with COVID-19.”
He said the public would still be at risk without observing CDC guidelines until a vaccine is developed and widely deployed.
“What it’s more about is how do we do these things with COVID?” Liggins said. “That’s where the CDC guidelines come in, along with abiding by the county and the governor’s and health director’s guidelines. We feel that we can hold concert and movie nights and heed the CDC guidelines.”
When concert and movie night attendees come to Commons Park they will be asked to congregate in groups no larger than 10, remain 10 feet apart and groups outside of families will be required to wear masks, and also wear masks if they are walking around the park.
“Because there will be a great number of people there, we will enforce it,” Liggins said. “This is something that has become so popular that if we can’t heed CDC guidelines, we will have to regroup and do something different.”
Councilman Richard Valuntas said he had pulled the items from the consent agenda to get clarification on the circumstances of re-opening public events.
“We have Veterans Day coming up, and right after the New Year, we have Martin Luther King Day,” Valuntas said. “I don’t see why we couldn’t do Veterans Day at Veterans Park.”
He also suggested doing MLK Day at Veterans Park or Commons Park so that social distancing can be observed.
Liggins said his staff had discussed with the American Legion hosting the Veterans Day event at 6 p.m. on Nov. 11 at Veterans Park.
“We think we can control that area,” he said, adding that staff had not had a conversation yet with the Caribbean-Americans for Community Involvement (CAFCI) regarding MLK Day.
Vice Mayor Jeff Hmara said he agreed with the concept of a return to social and cultural events while observing CDC guidelines, but the Veterans Day event gave him special concern due to the age demographic of veterans.
“I would like to see if we could get creative with something virtual and have a formal dedication with a small group of folks, and maybe put a banner on the park facing Royal Palm Beach Blvd. thanking our veterans,” Hmara said. “But most of the veterans showing up are in the high-risk category for COVID-19.”
Valuntas agreed, adding that MLK Day is also attended by high-risk people and might need to be conducted virtually.
After more discussion, both items were approved 5-0 on a motion by Valuntas.
In other business, the council unanimously approved final reading of its $50.7 million budget for fiscal year 2020-21 with an unchanged tax rate of 1.92 mills.