Good afternoon Fitchburg,
I am proud to live and work in one of the most diverse cities in Massachusetts. Moreover, I am proud to serve as your Mayor. In Fitchburg, all or substantially all races and creeds are represented in our City. We are neighbors; we are friends and we have the good fortune of each other’s fellowship. We want equality, prosperity for all and to live in peace. In this City, together we have a mutual respect for one another, we need each other and we need to support each other. That is why when racism is presented in any form, it must be called out.
This past Wednesday, we showed what Fitchburg is about. We came together as a family, united in solidarity, and listened in the wake of a senseless tragedy, the murder of George Floyd. Wednesday was about you, and you made your voices heard. I have always been very proud of our city overcoming all of its challenges. Wednesday afternoon however, is a moment I will forever hold in my heart. Let us join together to make a difference. I want to thank Three Pyramids, the Minority Coalition, our religious leaders throughout the city, the Fitchburg Police Department, and Chief Martineau. You all answered a call for help, provided a safe platform for our citizens to express themselves, and you brought unity and love to us all.
We have much to be proud of Fitchburg. May we use our civility as a motivator to be a change agent for our community. We must continue our pursuit that all people are created equal. Let us listen. Let us learn. Let us change.
As of 1pm today, there have been a total of 762 positive COVID-19 cases in Fitchburg, of which 301 are now recovered. Furthermore, there are 59 deaths attributed to COVID-19. However, it must be noted that this represents those individuals who have died and were positive for the virus, but official death record numbers may vary as COVID-19 may not be the official cause of death. As a reminder to residents, the Commonwealth has established a COVID-19 Test Site Locater Map. This map provides an easy way to locate a COVID-19 test site near you. Please visit www.mass.gov to locate testing facilities closest to you.
In terms of the FY21 budget, I had noted in my April 17 press release that the city was well into a month of the COVID-19 state of emergency, and spoke about the affects it had on assembling a budget for fiscal year 2021. In my May 15 press release, I announced that we would not be submitting our FY21 budget to council, as we traditionally would, while we were waiting guidance from the state. As of today, the state has not provided any guidance for Fiscal Year 2021. Because there has been no action at the state level to clarify local aid allocations for next year, it is not possible for the city to submit a balanced budget for FY2021 before June 30th.
For this reason, I intend on submitting to council a “continuing appropriation budget.” In this scenario, Massachusetts General Law Chapter 44, section 32 allows the city to submit a “continuing appropriation budget . . . on a month to month basis for a period not to exceed three months.”
For the next City Council meeting, I will be submitting a continuing appropriation budget for the month of July. If necessary, in July the city will submit a budget for August and in August the city will submit a budget for September. These budgets are intended to keep the city operating until the annual budget is presented and approved.
Yesterday, we held our inaugural meeting of the Reopening Fitchburg Task Force. The Task Force, which included over 30 business and community stakeholders, discussed barriers to reopening Fitchburg’s economy--such as the availability of childcare and other workforce challenges and lessons we can learn to improve both the local and state reopening process. Much of the discussion centered on preparing for Phase 2, which includes expanded operations for retail, lodging, and outdoor seating for restaurants. The Task Force discussed how to build flexible local rules to allow for expanded outdoor seating options. To that that end, I have been working diligently with our License Commission, the Building Commissioner, Board of Health and Community Development on a plan to allow for expedited approvals of outdoor seating.
We will continue to release the Governor’s reopening guidance on our facebook page, and have recently introduced “Reopening Fitchburg” on our web page to highlight the resources available for reopening. This page includes a portal, which allows businesses to submit their questions and needs as they reopen. This question will then get directed to our various permitting and development offices, to ensure there is a coordinated and efficient response.
I will continue to lean on this Task Force to provide me with guidance on a safe and effective reopening, and I think the members for their commitment to this important cause.
This week creator and inventor, Amy Emma of TeacherLock, a Fitchburg business, reached a major milestone last week by receiving final approval from the Massachusetts Building Code Appeals Board (BCAB) for their devices TeacherLock TL - II / SaberLock TL- II. Manufactured in the heart of our downtown, this locking mechanism meets the needs of school, healthcare, and businesses to swiftly and effectively lock down a room in the event of an emergency. Working with the Vice President of Operations, Salvatore Emma, our building and inspectional departments assisted with guidance during TeacherLock’s application process with the BCAB. TeacherLock is the only retrofit device on the market found to satisfy the building code requirements in the International Building Code. I am very proud of the time and investment Sal and Amy have put in their product, and now with this approval, TeacherLock is available throughout the Commonwealth. In addition, the Fitchburg Public School System will be working with TeacherLock to explore cost and installation in our schools.
As we move forward into the weekend, let us remember that June marks the 50th anniversary of annual LGBTQ+ Pride traditions. On June 28, 1970, the first Pride march in New York was held to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. Let us listen. Let us learn. Let us change.
May God bless us all,
Mayor Stephen L. DiNatale.