Members of the public were up in arms as a special meeting of the Magnolia Board of Aldermen Tuesday extended the town’s mask mandate and canceled a restaurant’s anniversary party.
Aldermen voted to extend Magnolia’s mask mandate through Jan. 1, 2021, and to rescind their approval of a fireworks show celebrating the 14th anniversary of La Mariposa Restaurant.
“We’ve been blessed in Magnolia not to have any coronavirus as high as some cities have had,” Mayor Pro Tem Becky Magee said, adding that she wants to look out for the town’s elderly residents and not disrupt people’s normal activities.
“Our numbers are going up, up, up,” she said. “We’re trying to keep Magnolia COVID-safe.”
When the meeting adjourned, Mercedes Ricks, owner of La Mariposa, walked up to the board table and handed Magee an invoice for the $6,000 fireworks show Ricks had already paid for.
She told the board the town could pay the bill.
Aldermen had voted to approve Ricks’ party one week before.
“They’re going to have to pay, because last Tuesday they told me it was OK,” Ricks said after the meeting. “Obviously the board doesn’t do their research. I think it’s a political move. I feel like I’m being sacrificed because I have a successful business in Magnolia.”
She cited the town’s handling of Handy Hardware as another example of what she feels is the board’s lack of support for local business.
Alderman Joe Cornacchione said the town has fined Handy Hardware for its refusal to comply with the mask mandate.
Votes were not taken by roll; Magee called for those in favor and then those opposed to voice their votes. Alderman Joe Cornacchione voted against both matters.
“People can take personal responsibility,” he said of his reason.
At the meeting’s start, he tried to have it declared a regular meeting rather than a special meeting due to the town’s plan earlier this year to hold two regular meetings a month.
Calling it a regular meeting would have also allowed Cornacchione to add his own items to the agenda, including a vote to end the mask mandate on Nov. 4, after Election Day.
He said Wednesday he also wanted to add measures to eliminate fines for noncompliance with the mask mandate, to specify which workers are essential and to end hazard pay to some who have returned to work.
New items could not be added to the agenda once the special meeting began, but the mask mandate could be amended later, town attorney Charles Miller told Cornacchione.
Miller had to ask the audience not to disrupt the meeting as they began speaking their disapproval.
“This is socialism!” one resident said to the aldermen.
However, Ricks believes the matter with her party is personal.
“There are lots of parties going on in the city. I explained to them this would be socially distanced, outside,” she said.
Residents crowded around the aldermen’s table, some asking why South Pike School District is still allowed to have football games.
Alderman Clarence Burton Jr. explained to a group of people that the school district has its own policies and is not directed by the town government’s mandate. Schools are under order by the Mississippi State Department of Health to require masks.
Magee did not respond to requests for comment after the meeting, but during the meeting’s discussion she said canceling the fireworks show was not personal.
“The purpose of rescinding this...it’s not about one person,” she said. The town has also discontinued annual events, like its Mardi Gras and Christmas parades, she added.