Following yesterday’s firm directive from Gov. Kristi Noem, the Pierre City Commission took action tonight to make state and federal COVID-19 recommendations enforceable at the local level.
Specifically, the ordinance makes it a Class 2 Misdemeanor to publicly gather in groups of ten or more people in an enclosed area unless a six-foot buffer between people can be maintained. The new ordinance is effective at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, April 8.
The rule is geared toward “retail businesses that promote public gatherings” as outlined in Governor Noem’s Executive Order 2020-12. It references establishments like bars, casinos, and coffee shops.
“The vast majority of our local businesses have been respectful of state and national social distancing recommendations for keeping our community safe during the pandemic,” said Harding. “This ordinance allows us to enforce those recommendations when they aren’t being followed.”
“We sure don’t want to make things any more difficult for our business community than necessary. We have to balance that desire with the need to be socially and personally responsible for the safety of our community members.”
The ordinance, mirrored after a similar emergency ordinance recently passed by the City of Aberdeen, is automatically repealed after 60 days unless the commission takes further action. A Class 2 Misdemeanor can be punishable by a fine of up to $500 or up to 30 days in jail.
Pierre Police Chief Jason Jones says that this ordinance is all about encouraging people to make responsible decisions.
“Our goal is and always has been voluntary compliance,” said Police Chief Jason Jones. “Our officers will be extremely happy if they’re never forced to issue a citation for group gatherings.”
It’s not just private businesses that are expected to follow the new ordinance, City operations are as well. This was made clear Tuesday evening when City Parks and Recreation Director Tom Farnsworth announced changes at the municipal golf course.
“Hillsview Golf Course will open for the season tomorrow with some operational adjustments to help keep golfers and employees safe from the COVID-19 virus,” said Farnsworth. “For instance, the Clubhouse will be closed except for bathroom access and window service.”
Farnsworth says that equipment will be sanitized more frequently too. Range balls, tokens and buckets will be disinfected between each use. Carryout coolers and carts will be cleaned between users. For a complete list of operational changes, visit cityofpierre.org.
Pierre Mayor Steve Harding says the City did not make the decision to open the course lightly.
“We consulted with other communities, as well as healthcare professionals to come up with a plan that allows the course to operate while still following CDC recommendations and keeping the community safe.”
Parks and Recreation Director Tom Farnsworth says that for people’s mental and physical health it’s important to retain some sort of outdoor recreational opportunities.
“We know that people need a release during the pandemic,” said Farnsworth. “As long as patrons are respectful of the operational changes and exercise social distancing recommendations when on the course, we’ll provide the service.”
Weather permitting, the range will open at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, April 8. The course will open at noon. Tee times can be reserved starting at 8 a.m. on Wednesday. To reserve a tee time, call 605.773.6191 or visit cityofpierre.org. Season passes are available at the course or online at cityofpierre.org.