On Jan. 5, the Marion City Council returned to holding virtual meetings with members participating from various remote locations because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the recent increase of positive cases in McDowell County.
In order to maintain the safety of city residents, staff and council members, the first City Council meeting for 2021 was conducted electronically. The public was able to access the meeting by calling a phone number, entering a meeting ID and submitting a password.
Members of the public could also hear the meeting at the Marion Community Building, where the virtual meeting was projected on a large screen. This is almost the same format that was used by the council for a few months in 2020 because of COVID-19.
During the Jan. 5 meeting, only a McDowell News reporter was in attendance at the Community Building.
The COVID-19 pandemic was on the minds of everyone who participated in the first meeting of 2021.
Council members heard from Police Chief Allen Lawrence, who talked about what it is like to get the new COVID vaccine.
Lawrence said he rolled up his sleeve and got the vaccine as have other first responders and local emergency and law enforcement officials. He said it is like getting a flu shot and he didn’t experience any side effects.
In addition, the City Council adopted a resolution regarding COVID-19 leave for city employees. This resolution provides city employees to have leave due to COVID-related circumstances. City officials added a section which grants leave for when they get the vaccine. They said they want to encourage getting the vaccines as much as possible.
Council adopted the resolution and made it retroactive for Jan. 1, 2021.
Mayor Steve Little said he personally knew nine people who have died of COVID-19.
“2021 will be a better year. It has to be,” said the mayor.
Council members heard a report from Landdis Hollifield, city clerk and public information officer. She is leading the “Be a Hero Wear a Mask” campaign on social media to encourage people of Marion and McDowell County to wear a face mask. The campaign consists of photos of local leaders and officials promoting the wearing of face masks. This campaign has been very effective and it will continue.
Hollifield is also leading the “Roll Up Your Sleeve” campaign to promote the COVID vaccine. She is also working to create videos about local businesses and public service workers and how they are being affected by COVID.
In other matters, Little made a special presentation virtually to Councilman Billy Martin for his 25 years of service on the city council. In addition, Mayor Pro Tem Woody Ayers made a presentation virtually to Little for his 35 years on the City Council and as mayor. Little’s tenure is second only to former Mayor and Councilman Everette Clark, who served for 45 years.
Council approved the purchase of a 2021 Ford Explorer for the Public Works Department. The new SUV will be purchased from Four Seasons Ford of Hendersonville for $28,341. It will be bought through the N.C. Sheriff’s Association, which results in lower cost, and this purchase will come in under budget.
Council also appointed City Manager Bob Boyette to be the city of Marion’s representative for the N.C. League of Municipalities Advocacy Goals.
The Marion City Council members adjourned in memory of the late Charles Presnell, retired assistant fire chief, who died recently.