MINUTES OF THE REGULAR MEETING
OF THE WALHALLA CITY COUNCIL
September 15, 2020
Present: Mayor Danny Edwards, Councilman Dennis Owens, Councilwoman Sarai Melendez, Councilman Danny Woodward, Councilman Keith Pace, Councilman Josh Roberts, Councilman David Underwood and Brent Taylor, City Administrator.
Councilman David Underwood led the pledge of allegiance.
Nicole Wilson- She said, “She has been a nurse for 20 years and worked with many viruses. We need to bear it as a community. Some people will get sick and some will die, but most will survive. A court has already stated a mask ordinance is unconstitutional. The mask doesn’t protect people against the virus. When her daughter has to wear a mask, it makes her face breakout. The media is misleading us about the virus and it scares everybody. How can the government tell which people have a medical condition? “She demonstrated the effectiveness of two masks by putting them on and attempting to blow out a candle.
Sonja Martin- She is the owner of Bliss Boutique, stated, “They had to be closed for a month during the initial Co-Vid outbreak. Then they did some curbside sales. They appreciated the retention grant. They are back to square one. The mask ordinance has hindered the growth of their business. The prior week sales were good and today they didn’t have a single customer. It should be individual choice who wears a mask.
Hunter Combs, CEO of Prisma Oconee Hospital, stated, “There have been over 130,000 people test positive in the state. The rate increased in June, but decreased in July. It is better to follow the guidelines set by DHEC by wearing mask and social distancing to get the cases down. His staff follows the guidelines set forth by the Center for Disease Control closely. In addition to everyone wearing a mask, they surface sanitize thoroughly. Mask help especially a vulnerable population. He would encourage people to wear one. He appreciated the dilemma local officials are in to address the problem. He encourages everyone to wear a mask and to get the flu shot.”
Melissa McCoy, owner of the Corner Craft store, stated, “Her business was thriving recently after recovering from the beginning of the pandemic. Her sales declines 63% from the week before the mask ordinance was approved. I’m looking to move my business outside the City. Maybe 1 out f 10 people wear a mask.”
Mark Prescott sated, “I grew up in Walhalla. I am a contractor who works in and out of town. I appreciate the opportunity to speak. I think this is a violation of my constitutional rights. This issue is more political than medical. Business are suffering. Are you willing to take on a lawsuit?”
Jim Donald, business owner, “Our business has been going down since this was went into effect.”
Approval of Minutes: On a motion by Mr. Pace, seconded by Ms. Melendez and unanimously carried, the minutes for the regular meeting on August 18, 2020 meeting were approved.
Discussion: Mr. Roberts asked that an additional paragraph be added to Resolution 2020-6.
Reading of Resolutions and Ordinances:
Mr. Roberts made a motion to discuss ORDINANCE 2020-12 AN EMERGENCY ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF WALHALLA, SOUTH CAROLINA, TO REQUIRE THE WEARING OF FACE COVERINGS OR MASKS IN PUBLIC PLACES AND IN SETTINGS WHERE THERE IS A RISK OF EXPOSURE TO THE COVID-19 VIRUS. Mr. Owens seconded the motion and it was approved unanimously.
Discussion: Mr. Roberts stated, “Although he thinks mask help against the spread of the virus, the police department doesn’t have the man power to enforce it. However, if cases go up the we may not look at bring this back up again.”
Ms. Melendez said, “I agree we don’t have the man power to enforce it.” She read a statement regarding her views on it. She conveyed evidence suggests mask along with handwashing and social distancing are best protective measures to prevent the spread of the virus. She wants what is best for the health of the citizens.”
Mr. Underwood said, “I agree we don’t have the man power to enforce a mask ordinance.”
Mr. Owens said,” Mask make a difference. People should take responsibility to protect other people. I love Walhalla. I know people who have had it and died. It hurts me to lose somebody. We need to have “common sense without it being mandated.”
Mr. Woodward stated, “I have seen studies on both sides of the issue including those from the CDC and Mayo clinic. Mask will help slow the spread of the virus. It doesn’t stop it completely, but it helps. Restaurants servers wear them and I appreciate that. Some people do break out when they wear them. I know it is an inconvenience. It is a tough problem; we are going to have to work through this. It is going to take some time.
Mr. Pace said, “I agree 100% to what everyone says. I am fortunate that myself and my family hasn’t contracted it. I pray every night no one in the City gets it. However, we aren’t here to write tickets for not wearing a mask. We have to look out for business as well.”
Mr. Roberts inquired about mask being required in City buildings. The Administrator replied, “You can do it by ordinance or it can be a city policy. The ordinance has more legal effect, but we haven’t had problems with people wearing a mask. Our frontline staff has barriers and most people that come in that need to meet with staff, typically meet with me and I wear mask.”
Chief Sean Brinson explained to Council the Chief Justice’s order regarding wear mask at Court.
Mr. Underwood asked, “What happens if someone has a religious or medical reason.” Chief Brinson replied, “We aren’t getting into an argument over a mask.”
The Mayor reminded Council that what we are doing has no bearing on the Governor’s Executive Orders.
Mr. Pace made a motion to end ORDINANCE 2020-12 AN EMERGENCY ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF WALHALLA, SOUTH CAROLINA, TO REQUIRE THE WEARING OF FACE COVERINGS OR MASKS IN PUBLIC PLACES AND IN SETTINGS WHERE THERE IS A RISK OF EXPOSURE TO THE COVID-19 VIRUS. The motion was seconded by Mr. Underwood. Mayor Edwards, Councilman Owens, Councilman Pace, Councilman Underwood voted in favor to end the ordinance. Councilman Woodward and Councilwoman Melendez voted in opposition.
Mr. Roberts made a motion to approve RESOLUTION 2020-8 A RESOLUTION ENCOURAGING THE WEARING OF FACE COVERINGS OR MASKS IN PUBLIC PLACES AND SETTINGS WHERE THERE IS A RISK OF EXPOSURE TO THE COVID-19 VIRUS. The motion was seconded by Ms. Melendez and was approved unanimously.
Discussion: The Administrator explained the difference between and ordinance and a resolution. An ordinance makes it mandatory a resolution is encouraging people to comply. Ms. Melendez stated we should add to it Gov. Order 2020-50 in the wording.
Mr. Roberts asked, “Will this affect restaurants?” The Administrator replied, “The Governor’s Executive Orders already address that. We are encouraging people to follow the Governor’s order.
Ms. Wilson, from the public, stated, “This violates 5 city and state codes. We may look at suing the City.”
Chief Brinson stated “If we need to, we can enforce the Governor’s Order.”
Mr. Roberts made a motion to approve ORDINANCE 2020-13 AN ORDINANCE TO AMEND ORDINANCE 2020-05 TO REGULATE, RESTRICT AND LIMIT, IN THE INTEREST OF PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY, THE USE AND OPERATION OF THE WATER WORKS SYSTEM MAINTAINED AND OWNED BY OR WHICH MAY BECOME THE PROPERTY OF THE CITY OF WALHALLA AND PROVIDING FOR VIOLATION THEREOF. The motion was seconded by Mr. Pace. It was carried 6-0 with Ms. Melendez abstaining.
Discussion: Mr. Underwood read the entire ordinance. Mr. Owens asked, “What is a valid passport?” The Administrator replied, “A passport from any country.” Ms. Melendez sated we need to capitalize I in ID. Ms. Melendez confirmed this was first reading. Mr. Underwood stated “A person would have to have a photo ID and either a social security number or a tax identification number to get water.” Mr. Owens stated, “His friend from England wouldn’t be able to get water service because he wouldn’t have either of these.” The Mayor stated, “These numbers aren’t hard to get. It usually takes 48hours.” Mr. Underwood said, “We need to have these so we can collect money owed to us. We have on person that owes $1400 and we have $37,000 outstanding.” Ms. Melendez stated, “She doesn’t think a social security number or tax ID number is need to obtain water. These numbers make it difficult to get service.” The Mayor stated, “We can take it up in committee.”
Mr. Underwood made a motion to approve ORDINANCE 2020-14 AN ORDINANCE TO APPROVE AN ECONOMIC INCENTIVE GRANT FOR MOUNTAIN REST ENTERPRISES. The motion was seconded by Mr. Roberts and was carried unanimously.
Mr. Roberts made a motion to approve A RESOLUTION 2020-9 TO ADJUST ADMISSION FEES AT STUMPHOUSE MOUNTAIN BIKE PARK. Ms. Melendez seconded the motion and it was carried unanimously.
Discussion: Mr. Roberts read the resolution. He explained the only change was that a City resident can get a pass by showing a photo ID that he lives in the City as opposed to having to have both a photo ID and a water bill.
Mr. Woodward made a motion to approve ORDINANCE 2020-15 TO ESTABLISHING CIRCUMSTANCES CONSTITUTING A STATE OF EMERGENCY AND ENACTING A CURFEW. Mr. Pace seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.
Discussion: Mr. Owens suggested that a quorum of council should contacted to approve a curfew. Mr. Woodward asked, “What would happen if we couldn’t get a quorum. An example would be in a natural disaster the cell phone towers went down. Mr. Owens stated, “It would be better for the Mayor to have support of Council before enacting a curfew.” The Mayor stated, “I am fine if that authority is given to head of the Police or Fire committee.” I can assure you I’m going to try to contact every member of Council before enacting something like this.” Mr. Roberts made a suggestion that at least a majority of Council attempt to be contacted before enacting curfew. Mr. Owens made a motion to amend the ordinance to include attempting to contact all at least a majority of member of Council. It was seconded by Ms. Melendez and approved unanimously.
Mr. Owens expressed concern about weapons not be allowed in the area especially those have concealed weapons permits. Mr. Pace said, “The ordinance states people are allowed to have a weapon in their premises and a vehicle is part of premises according to “Stand your ground laws.” However, people aren’t supposed to be down there anyway.” Mr. Owens expressed concern people not being allowed to got through a zone on their way to work.
Mr. Owens said, “I think it is against second amendment to buy and sell arms and ammunition. The second amendment states this shall not be infringed.”
The Mayor stated, “The point of the ordinance is if a tornado knocks the power lines down, we don’t want people going through there. It will be putting everyone at risk. We want people to be home until the streets are safe. Mr. Owens stated, “I agree people need to be safe, but we can violate the 2nd amendment. Mr. Owens made a motion to remove the section regarding buy and selling arms and ammunition from the ordinance. Ms. Melendez seconded that motion. The motion failed to get a majority of support.
Mr. Owens asked, “Is there a section if an area affects part of the City, that area will only be subjected to the curfew?” the Administrator replied, “It is already in there.”
Mr. Roberts made a motion to approve RESOLUTION 2020-10 AUTHORIZING CHANGES TO THE WALHALLA DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION BY-LAWS. The motion was seconded by Mr. Woodward. It was approved 6-0 with Ms. Melendez abstaining.
Discussion: Mr. Roberts explained the change is to reduce the number of people on there by their position. Also, to have more accountability regarding attendance. The Administrator explained the DDC by-laws require council approval of changes. The Mayor stated, “The DDC wants to notify Council of changes. Ms. Melendez asked, “It seems like there is redundant voting because some of the members of Council are on this board?” The Administrator replied, “This is the first step in expanding the board to help with some of their goals and there will be less perception of voting twice. Ms. Melendez said, “It would be good to expand the board to get more views from the Citizens of the City.” The Mayor said, “That is what we are trying to do.”
Discussion of Fireworks
Mr. Owens suggested Council consider having fireworks in October due to Oktoberfest being cancelled. It will be easy to maintain social distancing and it is good entertainment. Mr. Roberts said, “He will see if there is a way for the City to buy Oktoberfest fireworks from last year.” Ms. Melendez said, “We should get input from Libby how this will compliment her events.” Mr. Pace said, “She has something every Saturday including Halloween which is on Saturday. Chief Burton said, “We need to act soon because it takes about 30 days to get a permit.”
Fire/Codes: Mr. Pace reported the Department had
126 calls for service.
They completed 48 fire inspections and 4 rental inspections.
All schools have been inspected. They performed 6 pre-plans.
They issued 11 zoning permits, 5 zoning verifications and Code Enforcement Officer made 6 new contacts.
Stumphouse has been busy.
Mr. Roberts reported:
- Discussed the current status of the mask ordinance.
- The Administrator informed of us on projects he is working on which include:
- Updating the business license ordinance.
- Sending out request for an RFQ for engineering for the Greenway.
Mr. Owens reported:
From July 1 through July 31 the department collected
281 tons of residential garbage
68 tons of commercial garbage
127 of land clearing debris, 36 loads which includes C&D waste, furniture and brush.
37 mattresses which is 2 loads or 2.19 tons.
Delivered 47 roll cars and collected 9.
We worked on trimming trees, branches on sidewalks. The trash truck was down for a week due to a water leak. We will have to work on cylinders next. Also began putting concrete around the newly installed poles on Main St.
Ms. Melendez reported:
The start of games for football and cheerleading is September 28, 2020. The start of soccer season is September 21,2020. We have the same number of teams for football and cheerleading, but less players. We have gone from 25 teams in soccer to 14.
We are going to be working on implementing social media program as well.
Mr. Woodward reported the committee received the following information:
Issued 296 tickets and 326 warning tickets
833 Calls for Service
286 extra patrols
Chief Brinson recertified as a Taser instructor.
Officer Sanders and Captain Rice received evidence storage training. Captain Rice also received training with SLED to be able to improve communications with SLED on investigations.
The Chief participated in the Diversity and Inclusion first meeting.
We had discussion about the Mask Ordinance and law enforcement’s role.
Mr. Underwood reported the committee:
We listened to a presentation and economic incentive request for water service on Mill St. We voted to recommend to Council $9,000 for water installation materials to Mountain Rest LLC.
We discussed amending the water ordinance to allow for additional forms of photo ID.
We were updated on testing of the new water plant.
We were updated on the start of Stribling Shoals pump station.
Brent Taylor, City Administrator