City Council resets Chamber event as restrictions start to ease

By Bill Spinks

As Midlothian and other locations across Texas appear on the verge of emerging from COVID-19-related restrictions, the city is beginning to look ahead to events that will take place once the use of masks and social distancing restrictions ease.

The Midlothian City Council on Tuesday night rescheduled the spring downtown Midlothian Wine and Arts Festival for Saturday, June 13, by amending a previously approved permit. The festival had originally been scheduled for this past Saturday.

City parks and recreation director Heather Dowell told council members that the Midlothian Chamber of Commerce asked to move the date because of the ongoing pandemic.

Chamber special events coordinator Allie Benham added that the festival will be sensitive to all governmental directives and guidelines to keep citizens and business owners safe. A number of virtual options for vendors are available, but Benham said an in-person festival would be ideal as long as it is safe.

Benham said if things are still bad in June, the Chamber would move the festival online first, to allow participating businesses to connect with customers. However, the Chamber would need to make a decision to move forward with a live event no later than 30 days in advance.

“The reason we request the June date is to keep that door of opportunity open if it is safe,” Benham said. “I would hate to close that door before it is absolutely necessary to do so.”

Councilmember Ted Miller noted that if a live event takes place, it would likely be so crowded that six-foot distancing would be “impossible.” Miller said if any COVID-19 restrictions remain in place in June, the live festival should be postponed again.

“I think it’s either wide-open first party of the year or let’s wait until fall,” Miller said. “There’s so many people right now looking for anything to go do. If this thing hits, you’re not going to have double; you’re probably going to have triple the number you had last year. Just for the fact that it’s something to do.”

In reply, Mayor Pro Tem Justin Coffman said he trusted the Chamber to make the right decision, and also trusted the families in town to make the decision whether or not to attend the festival if a live event is held.

Mayor Richard Reno invited Benham to the next City Council meeting, which is scheduled for May 12, to give an update on the Chamber’s plans.

Mayor Reno, Mayor Pro Tem Coffman, and council members Miller and Wayne Sibley were present at Tuesday’s meeting. Councilmembers Clark Wickliffe and Mike Rodgers were absent.

Other items

• To start the meeting, Reno addressed Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s proclamation declaring Friday as the beginning of Phase 1 of a gradual reopening process for the state’s businesses, and read a statement in response to the governor’s order. “Based on the experience of Midlothian so far, I am confident that our community will continue to work together to remain safe,” Reno said. “With God’s grace, I am hopeful for the future.”

• Items approved on the consent agenda included the establishment of a TexPool Participant Services Prime Account as an additional investment pool; authorizing an auction to sell miscellaneous items that are outdated, broken or beyond economical repair; and an interlocal agreement with Ellis County for detention services.

• The council approved the purchase and installation of audiovisual training equipment at a cost of $57,421 for the city’s new fire station, which Fire Chief Dale McCaskill said is “within a stone’s throw of getting ready to be finished and occupied.” McCaskill said the first week of June is the target opening date.

• The city’s interlocal 700-MHz trunked public safety radio system, which also includes the cities of Waxahachie and Red Oak, was expanded by the council to include Ellis County as a fourth partner. The county will add two new transmission sites, bringing the total in the system to five.

• The council approved a five-year contract with Patillo, Brown and Hill LLP for professional financial auditing services with an annual cost not to exceed $76,500. City finance director Ann Honza told the council that of that amount, the city would pay $55,000 and other municipal bodies, such as the 4A and 4B boards, would pay the remainder.

• The board took no action after an executive session.