By Marla Jones, Managing Editor • email@example.com
FORT PAYNE, Ala. — (Full Video on southerntorch.com) On Tuesday, the Fort Payne City Council held a special called meeting to discuss the possibility of canceling this weekend’s Christmas events, including the parade and Christmas in the Park.
The City of Fort Payne released the following statement regarding the matter:
“In a special called meeting, the Fort Payne City Council decided to continue their Christmas Parade on December 11, 2020, at 6 p.m. as normal but to cancel Christmas in the Park. Mayor Brian Baine encourages everyone to follow CDC guidelines, wear masks and if you are showing symptoms please stay at home.”
As the meeting began, Council President Walter Watson, “We’re here today because of some urgency that we may feel with the rise of COVID, [so] we’re trying to determine what the best decision is for our Christmas parade.”
“That’s something that we want to do,” he continued. “I always consider the health of those people that we sit in this position for, what’s best for them is what I’m concerned about. From talking to our experts at the hospital and some of our testing facilities, I think we should discuss this.”
Council President Watson then called on Fort Payne City Attorney Rocky Watson to express his opinion.
“I may be the one who stirred all of this up this morning…this tremendous spike [in Jackson County] corresponds with their Christmas parade,” said City Attorney Watson. Jackson County currently has the number one positive rate for new COVID-19 infections in the United States, according to a report from The New York Times.
“The rates are just unreal, for us to ignore that, in my opinion, while it may or may not create legal liability, it’s going to create some moral liability,” he continued. “This is not a legal opinion, but this is an opinion of a citizen...if we have this Christmas parade and we have Christmas in the Park, it's not going to be any different than if we sent four guys out with rifles and said 'kill about 20 people, just shoot 'em'...we're not gonna do that. That's blunt, but that's the truth."
In a split 2-2 decision, the Council voted to move forward with the parade with Watson and Councilman Phillip Smith voting to pull the permit. Councilmembers Lynn Brewer and John Michael Smith voted to proceed with the parade. Councilman Johnny Eberhart was absent from the meeting.
“Let’s close Walmart and Lowe’s under this scenario, what’s the difference?” asked Councilman John Michael Smith. “Are we going to shut down the whole world?”
In a separate vote and at the request of Mayor Brian Baine, the Council voted 3-1 to cancel the Christmas in the Park event.
“I just encourage everyone that attends the parade to wear a mask and follow the CDC guidelines,” said Mayor Baine. “Be smart and use common sense, if you are sick or having symptoms, stay at home.”
Since the Christmas parade will be moving forward, Southern Torch will bring you live coverage of the event to enjoy from the comfort of your own home for those who feel uneasy about entering a crowd. Coverage will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday, December 11.