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Arthur Village Board allows the use of public property for the Arthur Cheese Festival with several safety precautions in place

Staff Writer

It was clear, at the opening of the most recent Arthur Village Board, that whether the annual Cheese Festival would be happening was on everyone’s minds. Although, before the details could be discussed, a couple residents from the public spoke before the board got down to business.

One member of the community approached the podium, expressing that he felt he had been harassed by one of the Arthur police officers after being pulled over for a license plate that they could see. He noted that, “the officer was not very pleasant, and he has had his car in town for eight years and had never had a front plate.” The resident was not given a ticket, and received a written warning.

Next, Barry Burnett, (from the Arthur Wood Loft store), stated to the board that cars had been driving down his home street, Prairie Street, very fast. He joked, although in a serious tone, that he would like to rename it, “Prairie Street Raceway”. A sign stating the speed limit had been placed on the street for the time being, reminding drivers to slow down. Burnett also expressed his concern about the Cheese Festival, asking the board to, “Please do not cancel the Cheese Festival.”

After the consent agenda was approved, Matt Bernius reported $64,786.36 in expenditures. Some of those expenditures were for Herschberger Concrete, paying for the Miox balance and completing the payment for the education and training of one of Arthur’s new police officers.

The Public Works Department reported that they had been doing a weekly test of chlorine of the city water. It was noted that it seems to be better than it was previously and that there had been no complaints after the flushing of the hydrants. The department was also seeking a new employee and wanted to advertise the position for four to six weeks.

The Arthur Park District would be moving a building off of village-owned property and assistance was needed to help cover the cost. It was voted and passed to approve $1,000 to help cover the cost.

Board members and Police Chief, Mike Goodman discussed the COVID Testing site that was to be held at Jurgens Park on Wednesday, July 8. They were going to have a road closure, and bring traffic off of Vine Street and then off of the West Park entrance to create a one-way drive through. Tents would be set up from 2:00 – 6:00 pm. The health department would test people in their cars, buggies and bicycles. The board approved the road closure request.

Towards the end of the meeting, board members began to discuss the annual Arthur Cheese Festival. Both Stephanie Wierman and Matt Bernius reported that they had spoken with the health department. Weirman said she had spoken to both Moultrie and Douglas. She said that they were granting food permit applications, although she wasn’t sure what the local COVID19 cases would look like by Labor Day. Should the village move forward with the festival, if the free cheese give-aways are included, they would have to be pre-packaged. Wierman did make a side note that the Douglas County Health Department was a bit nervous about the festival with the rising cases in the county. The health department informed her that while they can request that an event, business or restaurant be shut down, they do not have the authority to actually shut it down. Wierman also added that the Moultrie County Health Department would be willing to work with Arthur.

Attorney Kenny Crossman educated the board by giving his input. He said to be sure that there is insurance coverage for all of the merchants and make sure that all of the forms and waivers are up to date. All of the merchants and food vendors should be spaced at least 10-12 feet apart. Crossman stated that the village should leave the central intersection open so that the 50 people limit could be controlled and a rope should be placed down the middle for one-way walk traffic. He recommended that the village take any measure that was necessary to take.

Crossman also said that for those who are participating at the festival, they should be made aware that there was a strong possibility that the festival could be canceled if the COVID situation was to change. “No matter what you do, you have to be prepared for the worse case scenario if it doesn’t happen,” he stated.

The Arthur Area Association of Commerce has plans to cancel all the traditional “cheese games” and have no inflatables for the kids. Kenny Crossman and other board members felt that there should also be requirements to wear face masks and use social distancing. It would also be ideal to have hand sanitizer stations set up in various places as well. The festival would merely consist of merchants and food vendors. Those in attendance could also shop in the downtown stores that were open. Weirman said that presently, there were still interested parties who wanted to participate in the festival still.

With many stipulations and criteria in place, the Arthur Village Board voted to proceed to have the Cheese Festival. Matt Bernius made a motion to allow the use of public property for the Arthur Cheese Festival scheduled to be held on Labor Day weekend, with the stipulations that the use of this property is subject to change at any time by the Village Board, an acceptable layout is developed showing distance between vendors, and insurance and waivers are all secured. Christy Miller seconded the vote and all Trustees voted “yea.”

A statement was released from the AAAOC Board of directors. “The AAAOC Board of Directors is discussing their options in regards to the 2020 Cheese Festival Following the Village Board’s vote at the meeting on Monday night and the criteria stipulated should they decide to proceed with this year’s festival. Business owners have also been included in the conversations.”

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