Williamston has soft opening for Mineral Spring Park

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During their meeting Monday, Williamston Town Council approved second reading on the town’s 2020-21 budget and approved a property purchase. A disagreement among council members and the mayor on opening of Mineral Spring Park led to three councilmembers walking out of the meeting.
The Town had initially posted that parks would be opening June 1, however Mayor Mack Durham stated near the start of the meeting, that he had decided to have a soft opening on Tuesday, June 2.
The soft opening includes removing the road blocks and allowing people to use the park, however the public restrooms will remain closed, portojons with hand sanitizer will be provided, the town will not be renting shelters and playground areas will remain closed. He encouraged social distancing guidelines be practiced.
Mayor Durham said the decision was “out of an abundance of caution” and was based on information from the Anderson County Emergency Preparedness and the Governor.
Durham stated that he had thought the town could open parks by Memorial Day, but that could not happen. “We are trying to be prudent and conservative and protect public safety,” he said. “We will try to move back to normalcy.”
Though the issue was not an agenda item, the agenda was amended later in the meeting to address the opening of the town’s parks.
Councilmembers Rockey Burgess and Chris Alexander clearly were not happy with the decision to not fully open the parks.
Burgess said that the parks have been closed for sometime and due to the unknown of the pandemic situation “we erred on the side of extreme caution”, but his opinion was that it should be open and that numerous residents wanted it back open. Burgess said that he had an online survey of residents which had 192 responses in favor of fully reopening the park.
The Mayor responded that the town had 4000 residents that he was looking out for and that fully opening was not in the interest of public safety.
After a vote amending the agenda, Burgess made a motion, seconded by Councilman Chris Alexander, to fully open the park.
During discussion, Durham made it clear that he thought the issue was a “dramatization of current issues and a common tactic by Mr. Burgess.”
During the discussion, Councilman Tony Hagood walked out of the meeting.
Durham again reiterated that the soft opening was a decision to “Do our best in a prudent manner and over abundance of caution to open parks as soon as possible, with a soft opening, and take a week to see if we have a spike in cases.”
He pointed out a recent spike of COVID-19 cases in Greenville County.
“I hope the council will see it for what it is,” which Durham said was a “minority opinion.”
Durham said Burgess was making it an issue for political reasons and that it was a public display of sensationalism on the issue.
Burgess asked the mayor if he was going to just talk over him or let him speak. When the mayor responded, “if I have to” Burgess walked out of the meeting.
Burgess said he left because further discussion was futile and the actions taken by the chair did not follow Roberts Rules of Order, or adopted rules and proper decorum.
Councilman Alexander pointed out that the town had posted the June 1st opening and that councilmembers should have been informed of the decision so they would know what to tell residents who questioned them. He said they should have been told before an announcement was made on social media.
Alexander also walked out of the meeting.
Town Attorney Lee Cole recommended the mayor adjourn the meeting, though with only the mayor and Councilman David Harvell left, there was no quorum.
Burgess has since posted more on his opinion of the issue and the meeting on facebook.