ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and city officials took part in a press conference on Tuesday, March 31 to discuss the city’s local response to the coronavirus outbreak and focused on park safety.
The Balloon Fiesta Park COVID-19 test site that is run by Presbyterian continues to have the shortest testing times and is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
During Monday’s daily press conference, Mayor Keller announced the creation of the Micro Business Relief Program that offers grants of $5,000 to businesses with fewer than five employees. Keller explained that in under 24 hours, over 300 businesses applied for the program.
Larger businesses and other organizations are encouraged to donate to the One Albuquerque Fund to help support this program as there is a large demand.
City buildings remain closed except for essential services and emergency childcare. Starting Wednesday, the city will begin following CDC protocol by screening essential employees before they return to work.
Mayor Keller stated that he has received several questions regarding Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s request to President Trump regarding an Army hospital in Albuquerque. While President Trump said he will provide a hospital “as quick as we can”, Mayor Keller said that he has yet to receive any formal notification regarding this and is awaiting information.
Aside from sidewalks and streets, Mayor Keller says parks and Open Space areas are some of the only locations in the city open for fresh air and exercise at this time. Keller says the city hopes to continue having these areas open, however, the public must maintain social distancing practices and avoid playgrounds as they are closed.
There have been $1.7 million made in physical improvements to Parks and Recreation properties. The mayor explains these improvements take many forms including enhanced lighting and new, Albuquerque Police Department run cameras.
The cameras are said to be extremely effective in deterring crime at these locations. The cameras were paid for through this year’s and last year’s legislator appropriations as well as city council appropriations.
There is a dedicated Open Space law enforcement unit as well as a field unit that is working on increasing patrols and tactical plans at parks. The DMD security team also works to secure parks.
Director of Parks and Recreation, David Simon stated that parks are experiencing heavy use during the COVID-19 outbreak. In addition to the practice of social distancing, Simon encouraged the public to clean up after their pets and to pick up any trash you may have with you.
Simon recalled the importance of safety at parks by highlighting the damage that was done to Ventana Ranch Park in 2018. Criminals disabled the electrical system in the park, damaging lighting over the tennis courts and athletic fields.
The damage to the park cost around $100,000 to repair. With support from the city, investments were made in an effort to prevent future vandalism such as an automated gate to enforce park hours, armed electrical systems, and improved restroom security.
Of the $1.7 million for funding, about $1.45 million is one-time money that will be used for physical projects and will not require further funding. In total, 84 city parks, and other Park and Recreation facilities around the city have been prioritized for security and safety improvements.
This effort to improve security was initiated before the COVID-19 outbreak.
Responding to a general question regarding APD’s response to crime, Deputy Chief of Police Harold Medina stated that calls for police are relatively the same at this time. Police have seen a slight decrease in residential burglaries as much of the population is home and a slight increase in commercial burglaries.
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