ABERDEEN – The board of aldermen voted 4-1 June 1 for an adjustment to the city’s mask ordinance, which has been effective since last July in response to COVID-19. The adjustment, which is in accordance to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, will be effective June 15.
Mayor Charles Scott explained the CDC guidelines.
“If someone actually cards you, you’re supposed to show your card. Otherwise, when you walk in [to a business] without that mask, you’re supposed to be honest,” he said.
Ward 5 Alderman John Allen asked how the board’s action impacts local businesses.
“If we’re going in accordance with the CDC guidelines, if a merchant decides to take his sign down, we wouldn’t be penalizing if we go with the guidelines,” Scott said.
Ward 3 Alderman Edward Haynes said no one can demand for people to show proof if they have been vaccinated or not since it’s personal medical records.
Ward 2 Alderwoman Lady B. Garth voted against the item.
The city has hosted several recent COVID-19 vaccination events, with the next one scheduled for June 29 at the Aberdeen Park and Recreation Building.
After being closed to the public since the onslaught of COVID-19, aldermen approved for the June 21 reopening of the Aberdeen Park and Recreation Department, with Garth voting against. Park and rec. director Michelle Stewart asked if the reopening includes rentals of the gym and community center, and Scott said it will all be included.
After discussion, city officials approved for the soft opening of the Aberdeen Sportsplex June 19. There was confusion among board members about opening the sportsplex two days before park and rec. reopens.
Garth and Haynes voted against the soft opening, Ward 1 Alderman Robert Devaull and Ward 4 Alderwoman Carolyn Odom voted for, and Ward 5 Alderman John Allen abstained. Scott broke the tie with an affirmative vote.
Earlier in the meeting, John Allmond gave a presentation regarding potentials of the sportsplex, showing slides of other facilities in Mississippi and Georgia developed during the past decade which have attracted numerous ball tournaments. He shared a study from Aspen Project Play stating youth sports is a $17 billion industry.
“What you have out there is actually a gold mind if you use it right,” he said. “You’re not building that facility for Aberdeen; you’re building that facility for the United States.”
Food service representative Gary Parsons also shared vendor information regarding the sportsplex.
The board approved for the city’s support of the Southern Best Catfish Tournament to be held Oct. 15 and 16 on Aberdeen Lake. Garth voted against, and Haynes abstained from voting.
Scott said the city’s obligations include $1,500 to $2,000, volunteers, a holding tank for fish, transportation support and a grand stand.
“This tournament will run concurrent with the Bukka White Festival and will bring in thousands of dollars for our community,” he said.
City attorney Bob Faulks asked if the financial end of the obligation was in the budget, which it isn’t. Since the tournament will be held after the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1, funding could be budgeted for then.
In previous years, the city hosted several Mississippi Bass Federation tournaments, which attracted numerous anglers from throughout the state.
Haynes read a letter from a citizen regarding Newberger Park improvements, saying she’d love to have a splash pad located there.
“Prior to the 2017 administration coming in, there was a $500,000 [Three Rivers Planning and Development District] loan approved to build another pool. I asked what would it take to resurrect that loan and they told me it would take us deciding we want to move forward,” Scott said.
Haynes said there needs to be more discussion on the loan opportunity.
In addressing bills to proper vendors, city officials discussed the situation of M&J Lawn Service mowing the privately owned Odd Fellows East Cemetery as part of its mowing contract.
Allen has questioned his concerns several times about the legality of using city funds to pay for mowing a privately owned cemetery.
“A year ago when the new lawn care service came about, they [board members] chose to add the cemetery to the left. What should have taken place was I should have started an adjudication to get to a point where we needed to step in and provide lawn service. I was never informed to do that step. Now we’re at a point where we’ve been taking care of it,” said city inspector Roy Haynes.
Through adjudication, he would have to inform the cemetery’s owner that it is in bad enough condition to be a public nuisance and a hearing would be held. Since the cemetery has been mowed on a regular basis by M&J Lawn Service, it has not reached that point.
“We can’t get our money back. Adjudication allows us to put a lien on the property to receive our money back. Right now if we decided to put a lien on it, we can’t because we didn’t go through due process,” Roy said.
After it was mentioned the lawn care service is bonded and insured, he said the city is still liable for anything that could go wrong on private property.
In preparation of a plan to allow 18-wheeler parking at the former Holley Performance building, aldermen approved the low bid of $3,000 for the one-time mowing of the property.
Also during discussion of the bills, Edward said overtime is steadily increasing, even though there have been no recent weather events to would require it. He said overtime pay increased by $1,500 from the board’s previous meeting.
In other business, there was discussion regarding advertising for a secretary for Scott, which was ultimately tabled.
“From what I read in your paperwork, you’re willing to give that person the power that you don’t want the board here to have. This person is going to be doing scheduling, giving orders to supervisors and things of that nature and you don’t even want us to be able to actually give an order to a supervisor,” Edward said, adding another item listed was approving purchase orders.
Scott said it’s the board’s discretion to keep or remove any job descriptions. Edward said there’s not a need and there are no funds in the budget for a secretary, adding current employees need additional pay.
“Anyone who has been in my office or talked to me more than five minutes knows it’s justified,” Scott said. “I actually come to work every day and have a lot of things going on, and my secretary would allow us to move at an even faster pace than we are currently. Since it’s already on the books, it’s not adding any costs.”
City comptroller Karen Crump said funding for a secretary is in the budget for the current fiscal year. While Odom made a motion to advertise for the position, Devaull recommended tabling the matter until the next meeting to give board members more time to review.