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City increases curfew hours; will take up essential businesses question at 2 p.m. meeting

The curfew approved Wednesday for citizens of Batesville was revised this morning at a meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen.

In a 3-2 vote, with Aldermen Bobby Walton and Stan Harrison voting nay, the board extended the curfew time by one hour, changing the original hours of 10 p.m.- 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The motion was made Alderman Teddy Morrow who said he believes the Governor’s executive Shelter in Place order sent a message that citizens should be prepared for more restrictions beginning Friday at 5 p.m.

“With all the new measures there is really no reason to be out much after dark now,” Morrow said. “If all the grocery stores are closed by nine and the only thing really left open is the liquor stores then maybe people just need to come to town earlier.”

Walton and Harrison were against the earlier curfew, both saying that many of their constituents aren’t home from work until 6 p.m. or after and they need more time than three hours to run errands and attend to personal business that would require them to be on city streets.

The curfew revision vote was the only official vote taken, although board members began the discussions of what are essential and non-essential industrial and commercial businesses in the city, thus establishing which stores will be allowed to open and which must close.

“If you look closely at what the Governor’s order says you can see that it only closes about 30 percent of our businesses,” Morrow said. “If that’s the case then we really haven’t gotten anywhere if the goal is to keep people off the streets and out of stores that aren’t absolutely essential.”

Some business are definitely going to be closed by executive order at 5 p.m. Friday, but others will be left to the discretion of the board. The Shelter in Place order the Governor issued has provisions that local city boards may not relax, but they are allowed to tighten local guidelines to close others, or restrict what they are allowed to sell.

The dilemma is a question of fairness to all businesses, regardless of their size or ownership. The Mayor and Aldermen are striving to balance the state order, and their own resolutions to restrict public movement and exposure to others infected with coronavirus.

Using local businesses as examples, the current rules for the opening and closing of essential businesses would result in:

  1. Dale Copeland Jewelers may not remain open, but Wal Mart can continue to sell jewelry.
  2. Latham’s Lazy Bar L (boots and accessories) must close, but Tractor Supply may continue to sell boots and accessories because they are deemed an essential business as they sell agricultural supplies including feed for animals.

The board is struggling with a way to allow essential businesses to stay open, while limiting them to selling only those items that make them essential. Aldermen will take up those discussions again at 2 p.m., along with talks about what limitations to place on local factories.