Lee clears way: Town reopening phases to start May 1 or April 27

Though a couple of Farragut business owners expressed frustration and confusion about when their businesses might re-open, Gov. Bill Lee has set the stage for a “phase-in” re-opening of most businesses to begin Friday, May 1 — some as early as next Monday, April 27.

This ties into Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs’ “phased-in” Knox plan he sent Lee, which was outlined last week (page 1A, April 16 issue of farragutpress).

“I agree with Gov. Lee’s decision to end the Safer at Home Order on April 30 and am pleased he has said that some businesses will be able to open as early as next Monday,” Jacobs stated in a press release Monday, April 20. “I look forward to working with the state to develop a plan for Knox County that gets people back to work as safely and quickly as possible.”

“Our Economic Recovery Group is working with industry leaders around the clock so that some businesses can open as soon as Monday, April 27,” Lee said without specifying which businesses. “These businesses will open according to specific guidance that we will provide in accordance with state and national experts in both medicine and business.”

The Lee Administration will work with Knox and five other major metropolitan counties statewide “and their health departments as they plan their own re-open strategies,” a governor’s office press release stated.

“The county-run health departments in the six metro areas will retain authority to maintain or issue additional health orders as may be necessary to address situations in those communities,” Brandon O. Gibson, senior advisor to Lee, stated in the release.

“While I am not extending the Safer at Home order past the end of April, we are working directly with our major metropolitan areas to ensure they are in a position to re-open as soon and safely as possible,” Lee stated in the governor’s office release.

Local biz frustration

During the electronic meeting of Shop Farragut/Farragut Business Alliance Thursday, April 16, chair Candace Viox, owner of Water into Wine bistro & lounge, and Farragut Vice Mayor Louise Povlin, owner of Anytime Fitness in Farragut, shared their frustration.

While Viox expressed confusion about any timetable of a reopening, Povlin said, “It’s very frustrating that this one-size-fits-all is coming down from Nashville … they need to give it back to the mayors, the county mayors, so that they can decide on their own; ‘we’re doing good here, we’re going to take this slow.’

“This is ridiculous,” she added.

However, alliance member Kevin ---- warned, “If we don’t see a downward trend in COVID-19 cases nationwide, there will likely be further action to be taken.”

When it was asked if Jacobs might issue citations to Farragut businesses seen as non-compliant to county and state COVID-19 guidelines, Town administrator David Smoak answered, “What happens is the health department ultimately has the authority to open or close businesses based on the health recommendations, and the powers, that they have.”

Smoak report

“We can manage our operations this next year without cutting services, the best we can,” Smoak said during his Town report to the alliance. “We’ve added some things this year, frankly, that we have to take care of.

“So, we probably have to add some people to take care of some of the things that are coming up this next year,” he added. “… I think, the way we are looking at the budget, we’ll be able to get through this next year and be OK by 2021.”

However, “We have not decided all the areas we need to cut back yet,” Smoak said. “… I think in the next few workshops with the Board we’ll get that narrowed down.”

Asked by Alliance executive director Stephen Krempasky if any federal dollars are earmarked for Farragut among “the $2 trillion that’s out their” to help fight the economic affects of COVID-19, Smoak answered, “This is zero dollars coming from the federal government for any local government under 500,000 people.”

As for the Town business status of federal COVID-19 stimulus checks, “I know a lot of businesses are waiting to get their checks, too,” Smoak said.

Povlin said Alderman Scott Meyer has been a leader in trying to find “a way to support our businesses in the Town of Farragut. I’m not sure we have a clear way forward.”

She them suggested possible incentives “with the Shop Farragut program. … Maybe throwing a little bit more funding and add support for our businesses. … Shop Farragut and Visit Farragut, coordinating their efforts.”

New dates

• Following a recommendation from an Alliance committee, annual Taste of Farragut, original scheduled for Friday, May 1, has been moved to the fall: from 4 to 7 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 4, at -----.

“We’re hoping it works out,” Krempasky said.

• Health and Wellness Expo has been rescheduled for ---, June 13, ( ) in the new Community Center (254 Jamestowne Blvd).