Natchez delays action on proposed COVID-19 safety officer

Published 4:03 pm Thursday, December 10, 2020

NATCHEZ — The Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen on Tuesday put off the decision to contribute to the hiring of a COVID-19 safety officer to patrol area businesses.

The decision came during Tuesday’s regularly scheduled meeting of the aldermen after the Adams County Board of Supervisors approved a similar motion unanimously on Monday.

During Monday’s supervisors meeting, Adams County Emergency Management Director Robert Bradford Sr. proposed that the county contribute $1,600 and the city contribute $1,600 to hire a person for a four-month period to act as an informant for area business owners and managers and make sure they comply with Gov. Tate Reeve’s Safe Return Order.

The executive order imposes a mask mandate and gathering limitations on certain counties in the state, including Adams County.

The COVID-19 Safety Officer would have no official capacity to issue fines or make arrests, officials said. However, they could issue a verbal warning to noncompliant businesses and report subsequent offenses to the Emergency Operations Center, officials said.

Members of the Natchez Board of Aldermen were divided on whether the city should hire a COVID-19 safety officer.

Alderwoman Sarah Carter-Smith, said by hiring a COVID-19 Safety Officer, the board would be “creating a position that is not necessary” as most businesses are posting signs that masks are required and following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines.

Alderwoman Felicia Bridgewater-Irving disagreed and said not everyone is enforcing the mask requirement.

Alderwoman Valencia Hall said the city did not need to pay someone to “go out and remind others to have personal responsibility.”

Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson recommended the board take the matter under advisement and act on it at a later board meeting.

“Everyone’s intentions are good,” Gibson said. “It’s incumbent upon us as leaders to look after the health and well-being of our community.”