EVART -- The Evart City Council, once again, tabled the discussion on whether or not to cancel the annual Fourth of July fireworks display this year.

Council members shared their concerns regarding allowing thousands of people to come into the city and gather in one place, risking exposure to the coronavirus.

"I have concerns with putting our people in the sheriff's department, the fire department, the EMT's and anyone that has to staff it, at risk with everybody coming over from other areas that have high rates of COVID-19," Councilmember Dan Elliott said. "To do this, we are putting a lot of people at risk."

Councilmember Sandy Szeliga agreed, saying, "As much as I would love to see the fireworks, and the parade and party in the park, it all hinges on what the governor says. We are doing well with only eight cases in Osceola County so far. I would hate to see all those people come into Evart, and then our numbers go up."

City manager Sarah Dvoracek told the council that she had received a letter from the Evart Area Chamber of Commerce stating they would need a decision about the fireworks by May 15 in order to have time to make the preparations.

Chamber member Chris Emmerick added that the reason for the deadline was so the fireworks vendor could be locked down.

Mayor John Joyce said, "If we have to make a decision today, then, in my opinion, the answer would have to be that we will follow the governor's lead, and the decision would have to be 'no.'"

Councilman Hildebrand said he would like time to gather more information before making a final decision.

"I'm not ready to say absolutely that we can't do it," Hildebrand said. "We should put the decision off until the first of June when we may have more clarity on whether we should cancel or not. I think it would be fool-hardy to make a decision now one way or another."

Hildebrand said they will get a lot more information May 15, and more clarity about what they can do moving forward. He inquired if there was any clear guidance about when the Stay Home Stay Safe order would be lifted.

Osceola County emergency management operations director Mark Watkins said, at this time, there is no clear pathway going forward.

"As of right now, the current stay at home order expires on May 15. We are not told when, or if, those orders will change or for how long," he said. "We do not know what the projections will be with regards to public health numbers, but as of now we are not seeing anything to indicate they are going down.

"I have some concerns, regarding these events, with our current staffing levels, as well," he continued. "All part time employees are furloughed, and there is a lot that will need to be done to prepare for the events. Mowing would need to take place and without seasonal employees, that is a concern. Marking out the safety zones and staking is usually done by our summer youth programs. None of that is available right now. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it is a concern for me and my department."

Watkins said he has the same concerns about the parade and the party in the park.

"It takes weeks of work to get all that in place, and I don't see how, with the staffing levels we have right now, we can make that happen," he said.

"I agree we don't have enough information to make that decision right now," Joyce said. "Our sworn duty is to the public and their safety, and that is something we need to take into consideration. This situation is still unfolding, and until we have some clarity, we need to stand behind what the leaders and the experts are saying. At this point, their opinion is that this is a no-go.

"I would like to see us table this for now," he continued. "I think that is the best we can do with the information we have, and for the safety of the public."

The council voted to table the issue until further information could be gathered. In order to meet the May 15 deadline, council may consider calling a special meeting because the council does not meet again for their regular session until May 18.

In other business, the council voted unanimously to approve the resignation of city clerk Heather Pattee. Pattee will leave the position May 18. Council will be looking at a possible replacement in the coming weeks.

Discussions continue over the sale of lots in the Evart Industrial Park. City Manager Sarah Dvoracek told the council she is not sure doing the appraisals on the property is the right step at this time.

They received verbal quotes from the appraiser of $2,000 for the first lot and $500 for each additional lot, she said.

"After speaking with the appraiser, I am not convinced that the appraisals are the correct next step," Dvoracek said. "Because of the pandemic we don't know what the market is going to do, so we may just be throwing away money."

Dvoracek said she has sent out a request for advice on the economic development website and is gathering information from other professionals.

"I am putting all that together, so I am asking the council to postpone any appraisals until I can put all that information together," she said.

Council agreed to table the issue until a later meeting.

Dvorcek also asked the council to postpone any decision on the possible deed annexation of the Evart Industrial Park property until additional information could be gathered, as well.

Attorneys are reviewing the information in order to advice the council on how to move forward, she said.

Council agreed to table the issue until a later meeting.

The next Evart City Council meeting will be 7:30 p.m., May 18. Information regarding meeting times and how the public can participate can be found at evart.org