Mayor Jim Heavens said while this is usually one of the more standard decisions the council is entrusted to make every year, this time around it could be seen as more controversial.
But after 10 minutes of discussion, the Dyersville City Council has designated Saturday, Oct. 31 from 5-7 p.m. as the official Trick-or-Treat time.
City Clerk Tricia Maiers said she’s already received about a dozen inquires on the matter, and given that it’s still early September, she believes that means there are a lot of curious citizens.
Maiers said while she understood that the decision is a bit of a hot-button topic, she urged the council to make the decision either for or against trick-or-treating at the Sept. 8 meeting so families have time to prepare.
The council made several comparisons to the decision to allow the St. Patrick’s Day parade to proceed, but Mayor Jim Heavens noted if the council would have opted to shut down that festivity, they would only have been able to pull the parade permit. In this instance, no permit is needed for anyone to trick-or-treat.
“Certainly, parents can elect not to send their kids trick-or-treating and residents can leave their light off and not make themselves available,” Heavens said. “Beyond that, I don’t see a problem with letting this go ahead.”
Councilman Jim Gibbs agreed with Heavens’ sentiment, adding that setting a date will at least allow everyone to prepare.
“If we’re having a large COVID surge at that time, I think people will elect not to do it,” Gibbs added.
If COVID-19 were to get worse, the council discussed calling a special meeting to discuss the issue or perhaps take a different route to signal the risk might not be worth the reward.
But given that the activity takes place outdoors and many costumes already incorporate some sort of mask, the risk of transmission could be lower.
“If you’re outside, it does seem to be safer on the spectrum of risk,” Councilwoman Jenny Ostwinkle-Silva said. “I’ve always erred on the side of caution with (COVID-19), but I’d be inclined to move forward with this and if there is an emergency and we need to do something, we could use the Mayor’s powers.”
Although it wasn’t clear if Heavens has the authority under the emergency proclamation to cancel if need be, even if he was going to issue the order anyway, Heavens said he would prefer to have the council make the decision, or at least give him a recommendation before he went forward.
From the public health aspect, Maiers told the council that as of Sept. 8, she had not received any recommendations from the Iowa Department of Health as far as guidelines.
Maiers said she has been monitoring whether towns are for or against Trick-or-Treat within her network of fellow city clerks and so far, she’s seen a pretty even split.
“I don’t have a clear-cut answer for you, right now it’s very much divided down the middle from the communications I’ve seen,” Maiers said.
The council also has three regularly scheduled meetings before Oct. 31 should the issue merit more discussion.