The City of Winder will cancel the annual Halloween Spooktacular event this year and is planning to hold a “reverse” Christmas parade in December as the city continues to grapple with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Under the “reverse” parade concept, which has been tried out by several communities and organizations for various events over the course of the pandemic, floats would remain stationary and cars would drive by them.
Maddison Dean, the city’s director of economic development, laid out her recommendations during a presentation to the city council at its Monday work session, and the council gave her recommendations its endorsement. Dean said the Spooktacular Event, which had been set for Oct. 30, drew in anywhere from 8,000-10,000 people last year with over 100 vendors participating. Having such a crowd this year would make it difficult or nearly impossible for the city to stay in line with Gov. Brian Kemp’s executive orders on crowd gathering sizes and to enforce social-distancing requirements, Dean said.
“There’s not a way where we could force that many people to spread out unless we closed all of (downtown),” Dean said. “We could limit the number of people, but who really wants to go through the trouble of saying that certain people can’t come?”
Dean said instead the city hopes to have one or two smaller-scale events geared toward children that could be tied in with a grand opening of newly-renovated Jug Tavern Park if conditions allow.
Kemp’s orders, which he has continued to extend the last couple of months, and prospect of thousands of people gathering in close proximity in downtown Winder late in the fall — when flu season will arrive and could potentially exacerbate the COVID-19 pandemic — also led to the city’s recommendation to hold the “reverse” Christmas parade.
Dean said the plan is to keep the date the same, but the parade will likely be held at night — ideally, she said, between 6-9 p.m., where not everyone would drive through at the same time.
The city also intends to space floats out in lots off the usual Broad Street route in order to keep downtown traffic from bottlenecking too much, and the city could also coordinate with churches and businesses to use their lots and try to get the whole town involved, Dean said.
More details are expected to be released in the coming weeks.
OTHER COUNCIL BUSINESS
In business during its Tuesday voting session, the city council:
•approved a resolution allowing the city to resume its standard utility services and payment collection policies, including suspensions and disconnections, effective Nov. 2. The policies have been suspended since April due to the pandemic, but city officials have said more than 600 customers have accrued four to six months’ worth of outstanding balances. The resolution gives the city staff the authority to negotiate payment plans and contracts with customers and the city administrator the authority to approve those plans. The payment period would not exceed 12 months. The resolution also re-establishes deadlines for occupation tax certificates, permits or other similar civil approvals effective Nov. 2 with a 15-day grace period for each deadline. The city is also re-instating the competitive bid portions of its procurement policy, with certain emergency purchases still permitted.
•discussed options for a temporary location of the city’s municipal court operations beginning Jan. 1. The Barrow County Board of Commissioners has voted to end a lease agreement with the city for the judicial courthouse on Barrow Park Drive in order to make space for its new part-time state court, which will begin operations in January. Police chief Jim Fullington and city finance director Leslie Wilder recommended Monday that the Winder Community Center was the best-available short-term option, while The Winder Cultural Arts Center and police department training room were also discussed as alternatives. The community center has the most adequate space overall and would require less minor renovations than the cultural arts center/theater, Fullington said. However, some council members said Tuesday they would like more information on the various options before giving city officials direction on which way to proceed.
•approved a conditional-use request by Dan and Darlene Carey to operate a bed-and-breakfast at 73 West Midland Ave. The Careys had initially sought to allow short-term house rentals but changed to the bed-and-breakfast approach after a meeting with staff.