The attendance to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting was packed last Monday with several citizens urging city leaders to ease some of the city-wide COVID restrictions on local event centers.
Event centers have been closed since March of 2020 when the city council placed restrictions across the city following the COVID pandemic. Although some restrictions have been slightly lifted over the last 16 months, event centers have remained closed.
Joffre Washington, president of the Yazoo County Fair and Civic League, appeared before the city board to ask that some event centers, particularly the L.T. Miller Community Center, be allowed to open and operate within certain guidelines outside of the current COVID restrictions.
“Everything has been adjusted accordingly except for event centers,” Washington said. “Event centers have been shut down with no end in sight.”
Washington said the operations within the L.T. Miller Community Center rely heavily on proceeds that are acquired through rental fees of the local facility. He added that many of the events held at the center are “not large parties” but rather intimate weddings, receptions and funerals.
“We are large enough to accommodate crowds for small rentals, but we are not even allowed to open,” Washington said. “Please grant this exception to all event centers. If one can open, we should all be able to open.”
Several of the audience members requesting an exception to event centers were members of the American Legion Post 201, also known as The Hut, on Sixth Street in Yazoo City. The veterans reminded the city council of the local volunteer efforts and donations made within the community in part to the post being allowed to operate within its location.
The veterans said the post was also shut down by the police department at one time when there were about ten people inside the building.
Michael Alexander, post commander, agreed with Washington that there appears to be “no end in sight” with the current closure.
“We don’t rely heavily on the public,” Alexander said. “We rely totally on the public.”
Alexander said the post makes donations to the local youth, sponsors recreational teams, donates food items to the Manna House and even shows movies to local children.
“We can’t do any of that now,” he said. “We were shut down when there were not even ten people inside. We just want to stay open to provide to the youth of the community and for donations for everyone concerned.”
Robert Fisher, post member, said many of the operations and daily maintenance expenses of the building have come of out the pockets of its own members. He added that those funds are running low.
“When our country called on us, we came through and served it right,” Fisher said. “We want to make a difference in Yazoo City. But we have exhausted all of our funds. We need to have, not only respect, but consideration. We are not the enemy. We are not asking the city for any funds. We can be self-sufficient. We are simply asking to be allowed to open. We should not be considered second-class citizens.”
Albert Moorehead, another post member, asked the city council why they “cherry pick” what groups and events can be open to the public while others have to remain closed.
“Other places are supposed to go by the standards and they are open with no masks or social distancing,” Moorehead said. “But we get shut down with less than ten people? And we check temperatures, and everyone has been vaccinated. Why is the concern being put on The Hut?”
Past post commander Eugene Fouche said the post has successfully operated and served the community for many years. Along with sponsoring youth leadership programs, the post holds oratorical contests and provides graveside services.
“We are not a club organization,” Fouche said. “We are a veteran’s organization.”
Before leaving the meeting, Fouche also told the board that he will be entering the mayoral race as a candidate in the upcoming city elections.