Halloween may be the only day this year when wearing a mask is not controversial. Of course, coughing from behind a plastic face of an evil goblin may not be popular with folks who open their doors holding a bowl of candy.
At its Oct. 6 meeting, the Eatonton City Council spent time discussing what Halloween in a pandemic should look like.
“We do know the virus is on the uptick again,” said Mayor John Reid.
Some members expressed concern about crowds of people, likely ignoring social distancing, gathering on city streets and going door to door while trick or treating. The most concern was for Madison Avenue, an annual gathering place of as many as 1,200 people, according to City Attorney Chris Huskins, who lives there.
“I’ve had a lot of people on Madison Avenue call me,” Police Chief Kent Lawrence told councilmembers. “They’re not going to have lights on. A lot of them are older and they don’t need COVID-19 coming up to their doors. They’re not going to participate.”
But the city is not going to go on record trying to cancel Halloween. Aside from disappointing a lot of children, enforcement of such a ban would be impossible.
“I think that we have to rely on the public to be smart,” said Councilmember Teresa Doster, “and tell them that we’re not going to close Madison Avenue and we’re not going to condone behavior that is not recommended by the CDC.”
And that is what the council did. A statement released Monday from the city council said, in part, that no new local rules regarding Halloween will be imposed, but council “strongly encourages citizens to celebrate safely by following all applicable CDC guidelines. The mayor, council, and Public Safety Department will not be actively supporting door-to-door trick-or-treating in the city.”
Full-time city employees will be getting a treat, probably before Halloween arrives.
Council approved a $1,200 hazard pay bonus for 37 city workers as a thank you for continuing to do their job in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The one-time bonus was determined so that, after taxes, each employee will net about $1,000.
Council is considering which, if any, part-time workers will receive a reduced amount of the hazard pay bonus.
City manager Gary Sanders says the hazard pay bonuses are totally reimbursable by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act approved earlier this year by the U.S. Congress.
You might think your eyes are tricking you if, in the coming months, you drive past the Plaza Arts Center and see a 15-foot white Italian marble sculpture on the lawn in front of the building.
It is still only tentative, but Executive Director Roger Harrison told the city council that they hope to be able to accept the 45,000-pound abstract statue as a donation. There are some legal loose ends left, not to mention the challenge of finding a crane company that can move the artwork from its location in Covington at a cost the Plaza can afford.
“My goal is to get us things that put us on the map,” Harrison said. “We really can’t do huge events right now because of COVID-19 so we can get things that generate destination attractions. This is one of those things. A 15-foot, 22-ton statue is going to make the front page of a lot of art publications. And it’s another reason to come to Eatonton.”
City council agreed to the sculpture’s location at the Plaza if the donation deal can be closed.
Harrison did report that the Steffan Thomas Museum of Art in Buckhead is loaning the statue “Dancers” by Steffan Thomas to the Plaza for display with other artwork inside the facility. It will be available for viewing starting next week through January.
Also, at the October 6 Eatonton City Council meeting:
• Harrison reported that The Art Barn, a business that offers dance, music and theater education will relocate its office from the Publix shopping center in Greensboro to the Plaza Arts Center in Eatonton.
• As part of the Eatonton Main Street report, manager Lauren Singleton reported that a new business, Ruth’s Stop N Shop opened Monday, October 5. Also, All Southern Office Supply will open soon at 201 East Sumter Street. Singleton added that the Fisk Pub has been sold and is currently under renovation. On top of that, she said she has talked with potential new business owners regarding opening a bakery/coffee shop and a flower shop in downtown Eatonton.
• City council approved a Christmas Parade permit for December 12 with backup approval for a “reverse parade” if COVID prevents the traditional event from being held. A reverse parade sets floats, bands, performers and other participants in stationary positions in parking lots downtown. Residents drive their own cars through the parking lots to view the parade units.
• Council changed the location for the October 19 and November 3 city council meetings to The Hut. The room usually used by council in the Putnam County Administration building will be a polling location for both early voting and election day.