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Wellington County towns are mixing the old with the new to keep residents informed

County mayors have taken to radio, Facebook and the telephone to answer resident's concerns regarding COVID-19
Screenshot 2020-04-09 at 11.06.47 AM
Minto CAO Derrick Thomson does a Facebook live update to residents regarding the COVID-19 situation. Screenshot from Facebook

WELLINGTON COUNTY – Towns across the county are using a mix of old and new technology to keep residents up to date on any town developments regarding COVID-19.

Centre Wellington mayor Kelly Linton has had a long standing relationship with 101.1 the Grand, Centre Wellington’s radio station.

“I’ve been on the Grand for weekly updates for five years,” Linton said. “Ever since I became mayor in 2014 I did weekly updates, we built a bit of a following.”

He said this established relationship has made it easy to hold a town hall on the air where he answered residents’ questions relating to the COVID-19 crisis. 

“One of the programs the Grand has is called swap talk and we took the whole hour, ” Linton said. “We got all kinds of questions from people, I spent the whole hour responding to questions.”

Linton simultaneously broadcasts his town hall hours live on Facebook where he answers on the spot questions that he hasn’t been asked.

“Trying to cover off more traditional media with the radio and social media in one shot,” Linton said.

Linton said he was so pleased with how well the radio show worked that he is doing another business focused one with provincial MPP Ted Arnott and federal MP Michael Chong.

“We’re going to try to cover off all four levels of government in one shot,” Linton said, referring to his dual role as a mayor and county warden. 

The Town of Minto has also been using social media to keep their residents informed. Mayor George Bridge and CAO Derrick Thomson have held two weekly Facebook live updates and plan to continue this.

With the rapidly changing nature of the situation, Thomson said the immediacy of social media provides a distinct benefit over a traditional press release.

“We’ve got a great social media presence in town and for us it was another natural communication tool that was available,” Thomson said. “Just in the time it takes to write a press release, something else changes.”

The Town of Erin has been holding teleconference town halls where residents can listen and ask mayor Allan Alls and town staff any questions they might have whether it be about burn permits or extensions on tax payments. 

Linton said the seven mayors in Wellington County talk daily and compare notes about how each township is handling the pandemic.

“One of the things that Erin might be doing we might learn from,” Linton said. “Something that Centre Wellington is doing they might learn from.”

Linton said he thinks easing residents’ concerns is one of the most important things that can be done right now. 

“When there’s uncertainty there’s a higher level of anxiety, we can’t change the situation,” Linton said. “We can be upfront and be transparent with what we’re doing and making sure that we provide opportunities to communicate back to people. If some of that uncertainty is removed then people might feel less anxious about it.”