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Council limits gatherings to 50; masks required in public spaces

Farmville’s Town Council unanimously enacted an emergency ordinance Wednesday, Aug. 19, to limit gatherings to 50 people. The only debate was if 50 people was the right number.

“I think 50 is too many,” Council Member Sallie Amos said. “I think it is defeating the purpose. I don’t think we are going to get calls at 50. I think it is going to be 20 or 30, and I think 30 should be the cap.”

The ordinance is designed to help prevent large gatherings of college students and keep the spread of the COVID-19 virus controlled once Longwood University and Hampden-Sydney College students return to town.

There are several exceptions to the 50-person rule spelled out in the ordinance. Those include restaurants, schools, religious ceremonies, weddings, wedding receptions, funerals, activity on a public street, demonstrations or other special events permitted by the town manager.  

Town Manager Scott Davis reminded the board that the number would not only be applicable to college students but to the entire town as well.

Council Member Greg Cole said 30 people may be too restrictive at a time when town groups are starting to begin meeting again.

“You are also talking about civic groups and the chamber and things of that nature that are trying to get back to meeting,” Cole said. “I wouldn’t go below 50 right now.”

The emergency ordinance also requires face coverings in public places in the Town of Farmville, except for a few exceptions such as when eating, drinking or when considering those with medical conditions where a face covering would be a hazard. Children younger than 10 are not required to wear a face mask.

The council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance with the caveat that if it was determined 50 people was not the right number, the board would have a called meeting to adjust the ordinance to reflect a lesser number.

“I just don’t want to put this ordinance in place and it just be paper and no teeth to it,” Amos said before eventually voting for the ordinance.

The penalties for violating the new ordinance, which went into effect at midnight Thursday, Aug. 20, are $300 for tenants or property owners where the gathering is being held and $150 for attendees if they fail to disperse after a warning from a law officer.

The penalty for not wearing a mask in a public space is also $300.

The Farmville Police Department is charged with enforcing the ordinance.