WINONA – Starting Friday morning at 8 a.m., businesses in Winona will face a monetary penalty for not enforcing the city’s mask or face-covering order for employees and customers.
The Winona Board of Aldermen voted to enact a fine schedule for non-compliance to the order at Tuesday’s regular meeting after a lengthy discussion of how few citizens were wearing masks in public places as ordered by the city in May to combat the spread of COVID-19. Initially, the order did not include a penalty for non-compliance, however, the board decided to amend the order due to the lack of compliance by the public in wearing masks inside public buildings and businesses.
“People just aren’t wearing them,” said Aldermen Mickey Austin.
COVID-19 cases in Mississippi have spiked in the last few weeks, even in Carroll and Montgomery counties. As of press time Wednesday, Carroll County is reporting 171 cases, an increase of 11 cases, and Montgomery County is reporting 143 cases, an increase of 17 cases in the last week.
Businesses will face a fine of $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second offense, and $500 for a third offense. If a business cited for a fourth offense, the business will be forced to close for 24 hours to clean and disinfect their property.
The board asked that the new ordinance take effect Friday, July 10 at 8 a.m. to give the community time to become informed about the change.
For those dining in local restaurants, patrons are expected to wear masks or face coverings inside the restaurant and while at the table until food arrives. Masks can be removed during the meal, but they must be put back on after the meal is complete.
Winona is not the only city to enact a monetary penalty for not wearing masks inside public buildings. Several other cities like Greenwood, Tupelo, and Starkville all require the use of masks or face coverings in public places or face a fine.
In other city business:
• The board appointed Nora Butts to the Winona-Montgomery Consolidated School District’s Board of Trustees to finish out the term of Matt Surrell, who resigned in June. Butts will serve on the board until the end of 2020.
On January 1, 2021, a new fully-elected board of trustees will take office.
• The Winona Police Department, Winona Mayor and Board of Aldermen, and other city personnel will take courses in Racial Diversity and De-escalation on July 22 and 23.
According to Chief Tommy Bibbs, these classes will soon be mandatory for all police officers as part of Congress’ police reform efforts. However, Bibbs and Mayor Jerry Flowers have been working to bring the courses to Winona to provide the city’s law enforcement officers and city personnel the training needed to better serve the citizens of Winona.
• Bibbs announced that the Winona Police Department was awarded more than $100,000 from the Department of Justice’s COPS Grant.
• Animal Control Officer Arlin Pearson informed the board that with the state’s new animal cruelty law, it is now illegal to dump unwanted animals in the city. Pearson urged residents to report anyone who is found abandoning animals to him for prosecution.
• Pearson also reminded the public that grass that is higher than 16 inches is in violation of the city’s ordinance, and citations will be issued to anyone not in compliance.
• The board voted to repair the air conditioning unit at the Community Center on Powell Street for an estimated cost of $3,000.
• The board voted to order new decorative street signs for the area of Greensboro Street.