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Mount Airy approves budget amendment, talks changes in light of coronavirus, mourns recent deaths in community

Mount Airy's mayor and Town Council have a moment of silence for the lives lost in a recent shooting and at Pleasant View Nursing Home during their virtual meeting.
Mount Airy's mayor and Town Council have a moment of silence for the lives lost in a recent shooting and at Pleasant View Nursing Home during their virtual meeting. (Akira Kyles)

Beginning on a somber note to mourn two recent town tragedies, the Mount Airy Town Council approved a budget amendment necessitated by spending incurred through response to the coronavirus crisis and updated members of the community on changes brought about by the crisis at its April meeting.

At the beginning of the council’s first virtual meeting, on Monday night, April 6, Mount Airy Town Council President Larry Hushour initiated a moment of silent for the lives lost in a recent shooting and at Pleasant View Nursing Home. Two were killed in the shooting, not including the alleged perpetrator who later killed himself, and 17 Pleasant View residents had died from a coronavirus outbreak in the facility as of Thursday.

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Hushour also asked the mayor and the rest of the council to “remember the first responders who answered the call and the doctor’s and nurses who are treating victims everyday.” Later in the meeting, Councilman Jason Poirier also encouraged people to participate in a future candlelight and/or ribbon vigil honoring the victims from last week’s shooting. However, Mayor Patrick Rockinberg said Thursday afternoon the vigil was canceled because of bad weather.

Heather Zujkowski, 36, and Noah Homayouni, 18, were killed in the shooting. As of Thursday afternoon, a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign for Zujkowski had raised over $11,600 for a memorial and to help her three children, and another GoFundMe campaign had raised over $42,400 for Homayouni’s family.

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The council announced that it will introduce Mount Airy’s budget next month with a plan to vote on it in June, but an ordinance to make a budget amendment because of COVID-19 was brought up at the April meeting. The budget amendment adding $30,000 to the general fund passed unanimously.

“It comes with a list of items on it, that are the expenses that either have occurred or will occur and a lot of it has to do with supplies and overtime and payroll and then there’s some other things that are on here as well,” said Hushour.

Rockinberg detailed some of the expenses.

“There’s personal protective equipment, there’s signage that we’ve put out again, masks, hand sanitizers, that alone is around $10,000. There was a decontamination machine in there for approximately $6,000 for the chief," he said. "So there’s a lot of things and if there’s probably about $4,000 left over that would be contingency and just to give you a heads-up, that’s gonna get us through the month.”

During his report, Rockinberg spoke about the positives to be taken away from COVID-19 response during the stay-home order.

“We are discovering small silver linings as we establish our new norm. Most of the clutter has been removed from our lives, scientists can actually hear seismic activities much more clearly, " said Rockinberg. “Our commutes have disappeared, or external duties have dissipated. We have all become closer to our families and we’ve all had more family time.

"Looking for silver linings here, many have had time to cook. I’m personally going to put out a cookbook when this is over. We’re reading more, we’re meditating, we’re pausing to take in nature. ... In addition, we’ve seen town staff members of our emergency response team and elsewhere, perform services that they’ve never performed before before and they did it like pros. So proud of our staff and the council shows that pride.”

According to Rockinberg, the parks remain open but only for exercise. City staff is monitoring the activity at the parks for potential closure if there is too much traffic. They have closed public buildings, playgrounds, playing courts and the dog park.

In addition to Rockinberg, multiple members of the town council emphasized the importance of social distancing.

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