Stage 3 of Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s plan for reopening the state began Friday and Madison Mayor Bob Courtney took the opportunity to hold his first in-person press conference in two months and introduce the city’s plans moving forward.

For the most part, Madison’s plan to reopen will follow that of the state. Stage 3 allows for groups of up to 100 individuals to meet, provided that they are still following social distancing guidelines, and the reopening of retail businesses and restaurants, at 75% capacity.

It is the hope that the new guidelines will allow both the city of Madison and the state of Indiana to began recovering from the economic woes that have been a by-product of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the stay-at-home order, the focus was to protect the health and welfare of our community and do the things that we could do to take precautions to drive down the infection rate and protect our community. And I think the stay-at-home orders worked very successfully,” Courtney said. “Now, we’re moving into a new stage to deal with the economic crisis that is unfolding because of the stay-at-home orders, in particular the businesses that had to close.

“The choice isn’t now between saving lives and saving livelihoods. We have to make sure that both of those initiatives can work congruently.”

Nearly all businesses and restaurants in Madison were free to open on Friday, just in time for the Memorial Day weekend, including gyms and other workout facilities. If all goes well, the state will move into Stage 4 on June 14 and then a complete reopening by July 4.

Courtney said that in order for the city and the state to stay open, four criteria must be met as laid out by Holcomb. Those four criteria all involve COVID-19 capacity: the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, the capacity for critical-care beds and ventilators, the ability to test for COVID-19, and capacity for contact tracing. If those four criteria are met, the state will move to Stage 4.

In addition to discussing the reopening plan, Courtney took the chance to introduce new Madison Parks & Recreation Department Director Seth Pennington as well as Chief of Police John Wallace, both of whom outlined plans for their department over the coming months.

Pennington, who was promoted to the position full time earlier this week, said that his department will focus on upgrading its online footprint, including the implementation of online registration for sports leagues, as well as increasing programs for both youths and seniors. Signups for summer leagues are now online at the city’s website.

Wallace, who is beginning his second stint as Chief of Police in Madison, announced that the Madison Police Department has formed a new Crime Suppression Unit, that will be focused on combating drug issues in the community — not only at the street level but also at the investigative level — with four full-time detectives assigned to the unit.

“Illicit drug activity has proven to be the driving force behind 80% to 90% of all crimes. Statistics have proven that as drug arrests go up, other crime goes down,” Wallace said. “The Crime Suppression Unit will target known drug trafficking areas and respond immediately to citizens’ complaints. This is a multi-faceted plan of action and will focus on other areas as well.”

Wallace said the SPU has already been involved in “numerous” narcotic opportunities in recent weeks that have resulted in multiple drug arrest. He noted that since much of the activity occurs at night, the Madison Police Department is working closely with both the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department as well as the Indiana State Police.

“All agencies have one united goal, to have a clean, safe and beautiful community for us to all call home,” Wallace said. “I ask you to please not hesitate to call the Madison Police Department with your thoughts and concerns. When law enforcement and citizens team up together, it becomes a beautiful team.”