Berryville changes mask policy for city facilities

Tuesday, May 25, 2021
File photo

Berryville Mayor Tim McKinney last week announced a change to the city’s mask policy reflecting new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, one that will allow those who have been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus to enter city facilities without a face covering if they are so inclined.

McKinney made the announcement in advance of the regular meeting of the Berryville City Council on May 18.

“The city has adopted the policy of we’re now asking people if you have not had your shots to wear a mask in our facilities, but if you have had your shots, then we don’t require a mask,” McKinney said, further explaining that proof of vaccination would not be required or requested. “We’re going on the honor system. We’re not checking IDs or vaccination cards or anything. Basically, we’re following the CDC guidelines. Hopefully it’s kind of one step for getting back to normal.”

In response to a question posed by a citizen in attendance, McKinney added that children under 12 — the current age for which vaccinations have been approved — will be asked to continue wearing masks in city facilities, including the Community Center.

“That’s our policy for now,” McKinney said. “If you had your shots, you can take your mask off if you want to. If you haven’t had it, we would ask that you please wear one.”

McKinney also walked back a previous statement he made regarding Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’ decision to end his statewide mask mandate, an announcement he made on March 30.

At the time, Hutchinson said state businesses would still have the right to require customers to wear masks, and asked that Arkansans respect those requirements.

“Please be respectful and mindful that, while the mask mandate has been lifted, many businesses will continue to require it,” Hutchinson said, adding that state employees would still be required to wear face coverings in instances where social distancing is not possible.

During the city council’s May 4 meeting, McKinney said he felt the governor’s decision put an undue amount of pressure on local governments in light of the continuing pandemic, saying Hutchinson “threw everybody under the bus.”

On Tuesday, he said that may have been a bit harsh.

“I may have been a little bit hard on him [saying we were] thrown under the bus,” McKinney said. “I kind of used that term loosely. I’d have to say overall that, I hadn’t agreed with everything, but I think the governor has done a pretty good job with all this. And anybody that’s been in a leadership position in the last year and a half, it’s been a rough year. The governor didn’t really throw us under the bus — he just kind of pushed us out the door a little bit.”

In other business, the council reviewed the monthly financial report showing sales tax collected in the city during the month of April. According to the report, the city received $124,731.54 from the 1 percent sales tax, down from $129,117.06 in April 2020, and $62,365.79 from the city’s half-cent sales tax.

Of the tax money received, $87,262.57 was added to the city’s general fund, $17,000 to the sewer bond fund and $10,773.16 went to the street fund. The remainder was divided between the Saunders Museum and the parks commission funds, which received $3,231.95 each, and the tourism and cemetery funds, which received $1,615.97 each.

The council also heard from Berryville Police Chief Robert Bartos, who delivered his department’s monthly report.

According to Bartos, city police issued 121 citations in April, up from 56 a year ago, and investigated 78 offenses, up from 54 this time last year. The department’s clearance rate, Bartos said, was 84 percent.

“The big difference is because the end of March is when we had our big shutdown with COVID,” Bartos said. “March and April (2020) were pretty quiet because of the shutdowns.”

The department took in $1,535 in fines and bonds and responded to 15 traffic accidents, up from 12 last year.

In new business, the council voted unanimously to grant a request from the local Kiwanis Club to use George Pond Park for the group’s annual fishing derby, scheduled this year from 8-11 a.m. Saturday, June 12.

Council member Jason Williams also relayed a question from a constituent regarding traffic on Clark Road, which has increased since the opening of Osage Creek Cultivation, a medical marijuana cultivation facility.

“I had a citizen inquire about the traffic on Clark Road due to that facility down there, and I’m curious if the city has been looking at that and seeing if we can try to figure out a way to widen the road or reroute traffic or anything,” Williams said. “It’s a county thing too. they were just curious if we could if we had any thoughts on it or if we would look at it.”

McKinney said the road definitely needed some improvements, especially in light of the business’ planned expansion.

“I think they’ve got about 50 or 60 employees out there and they’re about to get bigger,” McKinney said. “I think we need to look at some improvements out there.”

The city council’s next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 1, at Berryville City Hall.

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