Police chief updates board; two food retailers warned over weekend

Published 12:35 pm Monday, March 30, 2020

The Batesville Mayor and Board of Aldermen heard updates from city officials at their morning meeting Monday, and were told most businesses have complied with the resolution passed on Friday limiting the number of customers allowed in stores, and banning gatherings of more than 10 people in most retail outlets.


Police Chief Jimmy McCloud said officers began delivering written notification of the resolution to business owners and managers Friday and finished Saturday morning.

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“We had a very positive overall response, and most were very understanding and very  compliant,” McCloud said. “We did have to issue two pretty stern warnings to some food distribution warnings over the weekend, but they won’t get any more warnings, they understand now.”


McCloud did not say where the warnings were issued, but photos circulated over the weekend showing up to 15 people standing inside some convenience stores that serve prepared food.


Piggly Wiggly has received no warning and is following all the guidelines, according to the police chief.


The police chief said local churches seem to be complying and kept their Sunday services to fewer than 10 in attendance, and several used different avenues to broadcast to members at their homes or in the parking lots with attendees remaining in their vehicles.


“The people that we had to talk with last weekend were checked this weekend and they had put measures in place and we are thankful for that,” he said.


The police department did have an usually high volume of calls over the weekend, but McCloud said he believes it mostly because of the pleasant weather and not related to the pandemic.


“We want people to understand that we are appreciative of their response and how well people are taking it,” McCloud said. “We got a couple of complaints about Piggly Wiggly and I think it’s because they are our highest volume grocery store and not because people are picking on Piggly Wiggly.”


“I personally checked Piggly Wiggly twice myself yesterday and I feel they were below 250 (customers). I will tell you quickly that I don’t think a lot of people in there should have been in there just because it was families of six instead of families of two,” he said.


“You know a lot of people just don’t use common sense and I don’t know any way to teach that,” he said. “I do believe they have had 250 or less.  I’ve had conversations with the store owners, the Reeds, and they pulled store counts from a year ago and actually their store counts the last couple of days were lower than they were a year ago. They are cleaning and sanitizing and trying to do everything they can.”


McCloud said he counted about 120 parking places in front of the grocery store on Hwy. 51. “Here’s my thing, if somebody rides into a grocery store parking lot, or a retail parking lot, or any other parking lot and they feel like it’s not safe because of the number of people, keep trucking and go somewhere else, and I think that’s really all we can do.”


“I reached out to four police chiefs last night from across North Mississippi, all from departments that are larger than us, and none of them have put restrictions on grocery stores,” McCloud said.


“None of them have done the strengths our city has done and I’m proud of our board for taking the measures that you have, but I’m going to tell you that we are doing everything we can do as a city and compared to others we are doing more than most on the retail side,” he said.


He told the board he thought a press release with a “little more grit to it” is needed to impress upon the public the need to “stay home, stay home.”


Aldermen agreed they believe the city has taken proper measures so far, but several noted problems with people gathering at public parks. Mayor Jerry Autrey said he saw more than 10 people gathered around the set of swings at American Legion Park and others sitting together on picnic tables.


Autrey said he thought the board may need to address the issue of the first day of April coming quickly. “The (EBT) cards are going to get reloaded about Wednesday, I think, so we might want to make another visit to the grocery stores.”


Groups have also been observed at Patton Lane Park and Trussell Park. At Patton Lane, city workers took down the basketball goals, and the gates to the tennis courts at Trussell are now locked after police were called there several times because of two individuals who continued to play tennis after last week’s closure of all city parks except Batesville Mounds which only has walking trails.


Board members will meet again by telephone Tuesday morning for further updates.


In other business, aldermen were told about an explosion at the substation owned by Entergy Mississippi on Hwy. 35 North, adjacent to Trussell Park. There was a transformer explosion there about 8:30 p.m. Sunday that was enough to rattle houses and alarm residents within a couple of miles of the location.


The resulting conflagrations were quickly extinguished and there were no reported injuries.