Sun Logo

BARTOW — Bartow will be offering free coronavirus testing on a first-come, first-served basis on Saturday, May 30, at the Carver Recreation Center on Idlewood Avenue, according to a news release posted last week by city officials.

The testing will be offered from 9 a.m. until noon, while supplies last, officials said.

The testing site will be one of the Polk County Health Department's pop-up locations, explained Bartow Mayor Scott Sjoblom, who is a Health Department staffer when not leading the city commission.

The testing is free and one does not have to have symptoms to be tested, officials said. Appointments also are not required at this test site.

This is just one step the city is taking to keep tabs on the spread of the virus and to prompt decision making on the city's further reopening following six weeks of lock-down during the pandemic.

The testing was not announced at last week's city commission meeting, but city commissioners did learn that the city's budget and operations costs associated with the situation were as yet uncertain.

City Manager George Long told the commission, meeting jointly via a video portal and at city hall, the full range of effects were still unknown.

“We've started working on the budget, but we don't have a grip on what the effects the lock-down is going to have yet,” Long explained.

Long also said the city knows it will be eligible for both state and county assistance to cover pandemic-related costs, but those dollar figures were not yet available.

While most of the city's revenue-producing businesses are opening within state and federal limits, some city facilities remain under lock-down, Long said. Commissioner Leo Longworth asked if the city had or plans to reopen the Polk Street Center gym, but Long said it wasn't opening yet, nor was the library.

“We're still working out how to maintain social distancing and disinfecting those (facilities), and we'll reopen them as soon as we get that worked out,” Long countered.

Long also reminded the commission that Polk County had received $126 million in federal funds to be used for COVID-19 relief, and that the city was “collecting information on pandemic expenses” so it could request a share of that pot.

Also last week, the city okayed the first steps to rezoning the location of the old Citrus and Chemical Bank property — from professional to commercial zoning — which would allow the former bank property to be used for other commercial operations and not limited to professional offices.

The commission also okayed Bartow Citrus Products’ request to switch from one property site to another adjacent parcel, to locate its expansion facilities. City Planner Bob Weigers told commissioners that the original site to be used had “some geotechnical issues,” but the alternate site was deemed suitable for the plant enlargement.