LIBERTY — Aldermen approved a partial reopening of Ethel Vance Natural Area Tuesday but left other coronavirus restrictions in place.

The campground, arena and trails will open July 13, but everything else remains off-limits, including the ballfields, concession stand, meeting room and playground.

Aldermen agreed to leave town hall locked, with service available to people who call or knock, and to leave the library conference room closed since there’s not enough room for social distancing.

“This thing, we had hoped by July we were going to see the end of it, but it seems like it’s been ballooning,” said board attorney Reggie Jones.

Opening town hall would be risky since there are only two employees there, and if one got sick, the other would have to self-quarantine for two weeks, which could shut things down, said town clerk Shawn Felder.

Mayor Pat Talbert said the Vance park arena is much improved thanks to the Scenic Rivers Development Alliance and the Mississippi State University Equine Center, which showed how to improve and maintain the quality of the dirt.

The dirt floor of the arena had become too hard-packed and would break into chunks, Talbert said.

Since it’s open-air, it should be OK for activities, aldermen agreed. Likewise the campground and trails. The bathrooms will be open but will have to be cleaned often.

Flag, weapons changes

Talbert told the board that, according to a new state order, the town must retire all its state flags and insignia by July 15 after the Legislature voted to do away with it since it contains a Confederate emblem.

Talbert said the flags will be folded and stored in a vault until some way is found to preserve them.

Talbert also said that, according to a letter from the Attorney General, the town must update its no-weapons signs at town hall to make it clear anyone with an enhanced-carry permit can carry a weapon.

In other business, the board:

• Noted the Mississippi Municipal League summer conference, which had been moved to September, was canceled.

• Scheduled a tax sale for 10 a.m. Aug. 31 and agreed to publish a list of taxes due.

• Agreed to hold a budget work session at the Aug. 3 board meeting.

• Learned from Mayor Talbert that the Department of Transportation will resume work on Main Street on Monday.

• Authorized Talbert to spend up to $700 on a generator for the town.

• Agreed to let the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks use Vance park Jan. 2-3 to test deer for Chronic Wasting Disease.

• Received a report from MSU showing town sales increasing $1.8 million in March-May over last year. Total sales were nearly $9 million, up from $7.2 million last year. Increases were reported in retail, real estate and food services.

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