(Posted June 25, 2020)
By Andrew Garrett, Staff Writer
At the June 22 Mount Sterling village council meeting, discussion topics included cancellations, closings and COVID-19.
Residents will see changes the next time they visit the village offices. Plans are set to change the in-person hours for the utilities office. Utilities clerk, Misty Vance, is now only available at the window from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
“On Tuesdays and Thursdays, she will still be taking phone calls like she normally does,” said Courtney Bricker, village fiscal officer. “It would help her get some back work, underwriting stuff done.”
Bricker said that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Vance has not been able to stay caught up on delinquencies in utilities bills. Closing on Tuesdays and Thursdays will give Vance a chance to get caught up, she said.
Council member Becky Martin said she is concerned about residents not having face-to-face contact.
“I want the public to still feel as connected as possible and it to be as convenient as possible to the public. I know they have a lot of questions,” Martin said. “I just hope it wouldn’t last too long.”
Council members agreed to check in on the subject in six weeks to see if opening back to five days a week would be possible.
Also at the meeting, Martin announced the village will not hold the regularly scheduled Fourth of July parade.
“The Chamber of Commerce was planning to have a Fourth of July parade, and we thought it was COVID friendly but apparently it’s not, according to our health department of this county,” Martin said. “I’m really discouraged with the interpretation of our local health department with some of these events.”
Martin said the village’s movie night set for June 27 was also in jeopardy of being cancelled and that she thought Gov. Mike DeWine announced that indoor and outdoor theaters were permitted to open June 19.
“I think there is a lot of contradicting of things, and I think sometimes Madison County Health Department is considering our movie night a mass gathering instead of an outdoor theater,” said Martin.
According to state guidelines, mass gatherings are capped at no more than 10 people until July 1.
Martin said she called the State of Ohio’s COVID hotline about the restrictions and was told it’s up to the county’s interpretation.
According to an email Bricker received from Erin Fawley of Madison County Public Health, the movie night was a no-go.
“While outdoor events are more likely to occur in the future due to the lowered risk, the mass gathering limit still applies unless another order has rescinded the requirement for that specific sector, i.e. wedding receptions, retail, restaurants, sports, etc. This event does not fall under any of the sector exemptions,” Fawley’s email read.
“Outdoor sports are allowed with spectators. Fairs are allowed. How is a movie night with 50 people not allowed? How is that different than a softball field?” Martin asked. She even suggested holding the event and calling it a protest, as protests are allowed under the governor’s order.
Martin said she hopes to talk to county officials soon as the village has already purchased a movie and concessions for the event. She said if the village can’t keep the June 27 night, the movie night will be rescheduled. She asked that residents check for updates on the village’s website at www.mtsterling.org.