MINUTES OF THE SPECIAL MEETING
OF THE WALHALLA CITY COUNCIL
APRIL 1, 2020
Present: Mayor Danny Edwards, Councilman David Underwood, Councilman Dennis Owens, Councilwoman Sarai Melendez (remotely), Councilman Danny Woodward (remotely), Councilman Keith Pace, Councilman Josh Roberts and Brent Taylor, City Administrator.
Mayor Edwards called the meeting to order at 5:30 pm.
There was no public input.
Reading of Resolutions and Ordinances:
Mr. Roberts made a motion to adopt Ordinance 2020-1 AN EMERGENCY ORDINANCETO SUSPEND NORMAL OPERATING PROCEDURES FOR CITY BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS; PROVIDE FOR VIRTUAL OR INTERNET MEETINGS OF CITY COUNCIL, COMMITTEES AND BOARDS AND PROCEDURES AND TO TEMPORARILY DELAY THE COLLECTION OF BUSINESS LICENSE FEES, ACCOMMODATIONS TAXES AND HOSPITALITY TAXES FOR CITY BUSINESSES AND MATTERS RELATED THERETO. The motion was seconded by Mr. Pace and was approved unanimously.
Discussion: Mr. Woodward made a motion to amend the ordinance as follows: Authorizes the Administrator to work with the Downtown Development Corporation (DDC) to develop a Coronavirus Business Retention Grant program. Authorization includes, but not limited to developing a criteria, duration, application process, eligible expenses and other measures deemed necessary to ensure fairness and the most effective use of funds. The Council grants temporary territorial jurisdiction to the DDC to include the entire City limits of Walhalla during the duration of this ordinance. The DDC will approve and administer grants. The motion was seconded by Mr. Pace and unanimously approved. Mr. Roberts made a motion to replace the words Travelers Rest with City of Walhalla. The motion was seconded by Mr. Underwood and it was approved unanimously.
The Mayor explained the Business Retention Grant program will be administered by the Downtown Development Corporation from funds previously allocated by the City. The money can be applied toward rent, utilities etc. He suggested a grant in the range of $250-$300. Ms. Melendez suggested Main St. Coordinator Libby Imboddy should be involved. The Administrator said, “She and Helen Westmoreland have already been involved in developing a plan.” The Mayor stated, “We are going to have to raise money to increase the fund to help merchants even more.” Mr. Pace said, “Time is of the essence as the businesses are really hurting.” The Administrator responded, “We will have a plan by Tuesday’s meeting.” Mr. Underwood inquired about improving communication. The Mayor responded that Libby has contacted just about every business to inform them of the SBA and PPL programs. She has even helped some businesses with the application process. Mr. Roberts said, “He is willing to help.”
The Administrator explained the ordinance extends the deadline for Business License and Hospitality Taxes. Allows the Council to meet electronically/remotely. Even though we should be covered by the State’s declaration we should do it for good measure especially when we apply for FEMA funds. The ordinance is in effect for 60 days unless an act of council ends it sooner. It gives authority to administrator to enact an Emergency Operations plan when necessary.
Mr. Underwood asked, “If having all the Hospitality Tax due at one time is a good idea.” Can extensions be granted on a case by case basis? The Administrator replied, “We do have some restaurants pay late.” The Mayor said, “It gives them an option to pay later or they can continue to pay monthly. The restaurants are really the collecting agent it isn’t taking money out of their pocket. The amount of money is based on food sales. So, if they don’t sell as much, they don’t pay as much.”
Mr. Roberts and Mr. Owens inquired does this take away authority from the Council. The Administrator replied, “It doesn’t. A councilman attending a meeting remotely is the same as being in the room. Also, Council and Committees will continue to meet. The administrator will consult with Council on important matters.”
Discussion ensued about closing Stumphouse Mt. Bike Park. Mr. Underwood stated, “Since other parks are closing there is a fear that tourist may bring it into the County.” Mr. Pace stated it was very crowded this past weekend with many of the cars from out of state. The Mayor stated, “We want them here, but after this is over.” Mr. Owens stated, “This isn’t about bikers it is about people congregating in areas like the picnic shelter.” Mr. Underwood made a motion to close Stumphouse Mountain Bike Park. The motion was seconded by Mr. Woodward and was approved unanimously.
Discuss took place about closing Sertoma Park and other facilities. Mr. Underwood stated, “I know people need a place to go. We need to close everything down except for the walking track.” Mr. Pace stated, “He agreed as long as the police will patrol it.” Ms. Melendez asked, “What about City Park?” Mr. Roberts said, “Families can go there, people should not congregate in large groups.” The Mayor said, “We need to do the same for the old football field. Also, be sure there are signs that read, “Park or field closed.” I hate to do it, but it is for health and safety.” Mr. Underwood made a motion to close all park features except for walking at all park facilities. The motion was seconded by Mr. Roberts and was approved unanimously.
Mr. Underwood brought up an issue regarding rental inspections as a condition of water service. Chief Burton replied, “We need to suspend the inspections temporarily, because people are not respecting social distancing and it is putting staff at risk. We can do inspections in the future.” Mr. Underwood inquired about the liability if we don’t do them. The Administrator replied,” The liability is on the property owner.”
Mr. Underwood asked about the access to the website. The Administrator replied, “Anybody you want can have access to it, but the more people you have the harder it is to control. I have communicated with both the webmaster and Mr. Parris about giving him access.” Mr. Underwood asked about more frequent updates on the virus. The Administrator, replied we gave an update on March 25 and will tomorrow, April 2. Those are the dates we had/have new information to update people.
Mr. Pace asked about letting people know that businesses are open. The Administrator replied, “We put information out on Facebook and made signs for pick-up at restaurants. We can look into doing more.”
Mr. Roberts raised the issue of the City participating in an “Egg and Eat” Drive-In event. “The City of Seneca and the County purchased already filled candy eggs. The goal is to distribute the eggs in each City, after the kids are get eggs they will go by and support a restaurant. It is safe, hygienic and approved by Governor’s office. The cost to Walhalla is $7,500. This will boost morale for kids and help businesses.” The Mayor asked, “How much did we spend on Boo In The Bay?” Administrator replied, “About $1,000. Chief Burton said, “There will have to be a lot coordination to make sure this event takes place safely. During this Pandemic I really don’t have the personnel.” Ms. Melendez said, “It will be good to help business and provide the kids a gift.” The Mayor said, “I rather spend the money on a bigger events on Short Street that more people could attend for a longer period of time.” Mr. Woodward said, “Lets look into it more.” Mr. Roberts made a motion to have the Administrator contact Seneca to gather more information regarding the event. The motion was seconded by Mr. Owens and approved unanimously.
Ms. Melendez encouraged everyone to participate in the census.
Brent Taylor, City Administrator