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Major events in Mission like the Veterans Day parade, Texas Citrus Fiesta and the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony may look a bit different this year.
This week, the Mission city council held a special meeting to discuss the modification of COVID-19 guidelines and status of traditional events scheduled for the rest of 2020. With the pandemic still prevalent throughout the region and nation, council did not want to push it and put residents at risk.
City Manager Randy Perez said there were a few potential modifications the city wanted council input on when it comes to adjustments. He started with the utility accounts in Mission.
Currently because of COVID-19, the city is not disconnecting utility accounts or charging online fees or over-the-phone fees for payments. Perez said there are some individuals and accounts that are one to two months past due or behind in their payments, totalling at about $221,000.
Mayor Armando O’caña said the Community Development Block Grant program offers funding people can apply for that will help them with those payments. Perez confirmed that a portion of that funding was set aside for utility assistance, and only Mission citizens can opt in.
Perez and O’caña asked if the council wanted to end the modification and start disconnecting utilities for nonpayment.
“Absolutely not, I am against that,” council member Jessica Ortega-Ochoa said. “I think we need to work with our community members, and there’s a lot of people trying to figure out how to work and have their children be on the computer for classes. This is just going to be an added stress for them.”
The other council members agreed with Ortega-Ochoa, and Perez said they would continue the modification on utility bills so late payments will not be disconnected.
Perez then brought up the issuance of garage sale permits. Several citizens have asked if the city would begin issuing permits for garage sales again.
On this matter, the council agreed to start reissuing garage sale permits with the requirement of citizens to adhere to social distancing rules and safety measures, which will be listed on an additional form once the permit is issued. If residents do not follow these guidelines the city’s permit enforcement officer can revoke the garage sale permit on sight.
The council then discussed the reopening of the Mission Boys and Girls Club for educational purposes. Perez said staff has considered reopening at a limited capacity, on a first come, first served basis.
“The idea was to assist the students who do not have the assistance at home or do not have the capability of following instructions from the classroom at home,” Perez said. “The main unit would start off with about 50 children and the Bannworth [Park] unit would be about 20 to 30 children.”
Perez said they understand the concerns of students and staff if opened. O’caña said he wanted to hear feedback from the Boys and Girls Club board for approval.
The hours available would be from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Council member Ruben Plata and Mayor Pro-Tem Norie Gonzalez Garza agreed with the suggestion of opening up, and Ortega-Ochoa said she disagreed because there are still a lot of people getting sick.
“I would hate to put our employees in any type of risk to their safety,” Ortega-Ochoa said. “I still think the risk is greater than the service. If the kids are not going back to school, then our Boys and Girls Club should not be utilized in this fashion either.”
Council member Beto Vela said he would be okay with a limited opening. Perez said they can discuss more details with the Boys and Girls Club board and see what they say before moving forward.
Following the discussion on the guidelines, council discussed events typically hosted by the city of Mission. Dates had already been set for the community occasions, including a pumpkin decorating contest, the Texas Citrus Fiesta, the Veterans Day parade, the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony and other annual events for city employees during the holidays.
Council went down the list and discussed the viability of holding some events in-person, and other modifications that can be made to ensure safety. The pumpkin decorating contest, for example, held at the Speer Memorial Library, will be a virtual event this year.
Several events were set to be virtual following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the council said they were comfortable with any event that decided to go the virtual route.
For other events, like Thanksgiving and Christmas functions, the council opted to discuss them again in one month to see the status of the pandemic in the region. Mission will keep residents informed of any and all changes moving forward.