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COVID-19 kills Christmas Parade

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    Three of the 7 councilmembers did not attend the December 1 regular meeting of the Eatonton City Council. The meeting was held at The Hut. MARK ENGEL/Staff
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    Lauren Singleton, director of Eatonton Main Street, discusses the fate of the Christmas parade with city councilmembers at the December 1 meeting. Even her plan for a “reverse parade” wouldn’t make sense. MARK ENGEL/Staff

No one really wanted to do it but the Eatonton City Council has voted to cancel the city Christmas Parade this year. It happened at the December 1 regular meeting held at The Hut.

Officially, COVID was the culprit but Main Street Director Lauren Singleton noted that she had received only 6 applications for units in the parade – two floats and 4 vehicles. She said she called all 11 of last year’s participants but only one, the Lion’s Club, agreed to return.

“I think six interested people makes for a parade,” councilmember Janie Reid (Ward 3) said. “We need to do whatever we can to have some activity however…because of COVID, I say no.”

Mayor Pro Tem Chip Walker said he would have to agree, adding that no one wants to risk spreading COVID-19 for only two floats and 4 cars.

In October, Singleton had a COVID contingency plan for the parade. She said it could be a so-called reverse parade that would be positioned, stationary, in a parking lot so people could drive by and enjoy the floats, bands and other units from the safety of their cars.

In the end, council said it would not be worth it and voted unanimously 4-0 to cancel the parade this year and hope for better times next year. Three members did not attend the meeting – Teresa Doster (Ward 4), Marie Rainey (Wards 1 & 4) and Alvin Butts (Wards 2 & 3).

“I think we still should be thinking about something else for Christmas”, Mayor John Reid said after the vote. “The lights downtown are beautiful and people are saying so. Is there something else we can think of between now and Christmas that we can give the people to brighten the spirits of people during the holiday season?”

Sanders reported that more people seem to be interested in the city’s Community Decorating Contest. Judging was scheduled for Sunday, December 13, for those homes that submitted free applications by the December 1 deadline.

Since this meeting, the Eatonton Hometown Holidays event to be held on the courthouse lawn Saturday, December 12 has been cancelled.

In other news, Singleton said that Small Business Saturday on November 28 was disappointing for Eatonton merchants who told her business was down from last year, in some cases as much at 30-40 percent.

“I’m not sure if that’s all COVID related”, Singleton said, “but I’d like to think that it is all COVID related because 30-40 percent down is quite significant.”

City council also agreed at the meeting to pay an additional

$7,311.50 to the contractor working on the North Jefferson Avenue Streetscape Project.

The $462,000 Streetscape project is designed to make aesthetic and safety improvements to pedestrian facilities along the west side of North Jefferson Avenue between West Marion Street and West Harris Street.

The money approved by council covers the cost of removing an underground storm drainage pipe and junction box that no one knew was there. That was on the north end of the project.

On top of that, Administrator Sanders told the council that workers on the south end of the project recently discovered an unknown water line. It serves businesses along West Marion Street and runs under one of the buildings on Jefferson Street. It must be adjusted, removed or relocated for the Streetscape work to continue. The city Water Authority is assessing that situation.

The entire project was to be completed by November 1 but the city is still waiting to hear from Horizon Construction & Associates about a new completion date.

Also, at its December 1 meeting, council voted to change the name of Putnam Avenue to Timothy Thompkins Avenue.

Later, councilmember Janie Reid announced that applications for the new Eatonton Youth Leadership Program have been distributed in the public schools and the Gatewood Schools. She is looking forward to reviewing applicants for the new city program.