Troup County Board of Commissioners closes dining rooms in the county, closes other businesses

Published 12:57 pm Wednesday, March 25, 2020

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The Troup County Board of Commissioners have followed in the footsteps of the LaGrange City Council and has shut down dine-in services of restaurants in the county.

The commission amended its state of the emergency ordinance passed on March 17 to allow for additional conditions.

Restaurants in the county can still offer take-out and delivery services.

The ordinance says patrons, employees and contractors of the eating establishments must maintain at least six feet of distance between themselves. Additionally, if a restaurant is licensed to sell beer and wine for on-premises consumption, they are allowed to sell unopened beer in cans or bottles or wine for take-out during the emergency.

The county also closed several businesses, including gyms, fitness centers, indoor amusement facilities, bowling alleys, pool halls, theaters, massage parlors, nail salons, barbershops, hair salons and tattoo parlors.

The ordinance does allow grocery stores and pharmacies to remain open during the emergency, but they must post signage on their doors informing consumers to maintain at least six feet of personal distance between themselves and others as much as possible.

The closing of dining room services and the closure of such businesses will be effective at 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 26.

“The community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members,” Troup County’s County Attorney Jerry Willis said.

The state of emergency will be in place for 45 days from March 17, according to the ordinance. However, the commissioners reserve the right to lift the directive at any time if conditions improve, and it no longer sees the need for it.

The ordinance also reads that public gatherings on county property of 10 or more people throughout the duration of the state of emergency are prohibited. County-owned property includes any park, public square, public place or playground and recreational area.

“Nothing herein shall prohibit individuals or families from using sidewalks or designated pedestrian areas of parks for walking for the use of exercise if they are not participating in an organized gathering,” Willis read from the ordinance.

The ordinance also allows County Manager Eric Mosley to determine what county services are required or discretionary. He also has the right to review and make changes throughout the duration of the emergency. The ordinance allows Mosley to assign employees to required or discretionary services and use his discretion to allow employees to work remotely. Mosley also now has the power to suspend temporary services, and direct employees not to work until the emergency is over or until redirected.

The ordinance also allows the manager to contract for expend non-budgeted items he deems necessary to satisfy the needs of the county throughout the emergency. He will be allowed to expend funds from the reserves of the county to make such purchases. However, he will have to report the expenditures to the county board.

In the ordinance, public safety, public works, health care and building permits are considered essential, but more could be added at Mosley’s direction.

Commissioner Morris Jones said these measures enacted by the board lets the people know the board is taking this matter serious.

“This is really a war against an invisible enemy out there,” he said. “We all need to take this very serious. And this is why this commission board is taking this seriously.”

Chairman Patrick Crews said similar measures are being taken by cities and counties across the state, including Troup County.

“We wanted to make sure that we as the leadership of the community all spoke in one voice, and so please understand that all our governments are working together very closely to make sure that we protect the citizens of Troup County,” he said.

Crews said the county rescind the state of emergency ordinance or modify it again if given the green light from health professionals.

“As soon as we’re given the all-clear that it’s in our best interest as leaders, and for the citizens of our community, we will work very quickly to remove this as conditions warrant it,” he said.