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Living in the Metroplex makes it difficult to get hometown news on a daily basis, so the City of Lewisville is doing its best to keep you informed through several avenues.

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Mayor Durham update on Lewisville’s COVID-19 response

Post Date:April 21, 2020
The past week has brought some early signs that Lewisville, along with the rest of Denton County and North Texas, is making progress in the fight to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The number of new cases each day is still alarming, but that number is not growing as quickly as it was just a couple of weeks ago. Testing levels still are not where we need, but there is some hope that we might be near the peak in the viral curve that public health officials are trying to flatten.

This is not the time to get careless and try racing back to the lives we had before the virus reached Texas. This is still a time for caution. But hope is a treasured commodity and I welcome what appears to be small pieces of good news.

Lewisville City Hall and other municipal facilities have been closed for more than four weeks now. But your city employees have still been hard at work, ensuring that essential city services continue to operate while also offering new levels of service to the community during a stressful time.

One of the first things the city did was open a call center, so residents reaching out to City Hall would not get lost in a voicemail black hole trying to find which workers were in the office and which were working from home or assigned to other tasks.

The call center has operated from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day for the past four weeks. During that time, they have received more than 2,800 calls. Some people wanted to ask about water bills or building permits, while others have questions or needs related to COVID-19. All of them were greeted by a live human being who worked with them to get answers.

Starting this Saturday, we will eliminate the weekend hours. With an average of fewer than 10 calls per day, there just is not a public demand for a weekend call center. But the phone lines will still be open from 7 to 7 every week day until the doors of City Hall are open once again.

City employees also took the extraordinary step of trying to reach out directly to our senior citizens, who are among the most vulnerable to serious COVID-19 infection. Many of them were cut off from their usual support structure of family, neighbors, church friends, and social services.

We opened the Loving Our Community callout center three weeks ago using contact information culled from water bill records, appraisal district files, and other sources. City employees placed more than 6,500 calls during the past two and a half weeks. While most of the 2,500 residents who answered their phones did not have immediate needs, our team did receive requests for food assistance, masks and sanitizer, COVID-19 testing locations, and bill pay assistance. We were able to connect those people with community resources ready to help.

What can better express the special nature of Lewisville than calling to check on our neighbors and offering help during tough times? I am so proud of this effort, and grateful to everyone who made it possible.

This week, city inspectors are making telephone wellness checks with our senior living centers around Lewisville to make sure they have everything they need to properly care for their residents. We’ve already helped some facilities request vital supplies from emergency sources.

Over at the Lewisville Public Library, some of our librarians spent a good deal of their time sewing more than 600 cloth face masks that were then cleaned at the fire department and distributed to city employees.

We also received generous donations of homemade masks, including some from Quilt Country. As a result, when some of the seniors we called said they needed to find masks, we were able to send masks to them with help from Next Steps Center volunteers. What wonderful teamwork!

Some of you have reached out to me and expressed concerns that if we move too quickly now, it could undo the good that came from our stay-at-home sacrifice. I understand your concern. We will closely follow the lead of our state and county officials and public health experts. The safety of Lewisville residents is always our top priority. Again, this is a time for caution, not carelessness.

As businesses slowly re-open, I urge you to continue practicing smart physical distancing, frequent hand-washing, and personal protective measures. We also want to get back to business as usual. We need to accept that “as usual” after COVID-19 is not going to be the same “as usual” from before the virus. A little extra patience will go a long way toward helping everyone make a successful and healthy transition back to full operations.

Speaking of full operations, city staff in all departments are working on a detailed plan for re-opening municipal facilities and services. It will happen in phases, and there definitely will be changes – some temporary and some permanent.

The economic reality of the stay-at-home order is expected to take about $7 million in revenue away from the city budget during the rest of the fiscal year. Decreases will be most severe in sales tax and hotel occupancy tax. We expect to see these revenue drops continue well into the 2020-21 fiscal year.

City administration already has made significant cuts to the current budget, including a hiring freeze for most vacant positions. The next 12-18 months will see a very lean budget for the city. Some projects will be put on hold, and some programs will be suspended or eliminated. You probably already saw that the grand opening of Thrive multigenerational recreation center has been delayed until October because of revenue challenges.

As these cuts are made, we will try to make them as painless as possible for Lewisville residents. You can be assured that all essential services will continue. Some of the cuts might include your favorite program or event, and I wish that could be avoided. But the core public safety and infrastructure needs of the city have to be met.

This has been a difficult time for all of us, and it’s not over yet. When we finally do get past the COVID-19 public health emergency, some things will have changed forever. Two things that I am certain will not change are Lewisville’s steady pursuit of a bright future, and the can-do spirit of her people that makes the pursuit possible.
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