Steve Presley

Mayor Steve Presley

During Monday’s city council meeting, some city council members, as well as the public, questioned the speed, amount, and accuracy of information coming from City Hall on the COVID-19 crisis.

“There is much more information beyond numbers of confirmed cases,” District 5 council member Dana Goolsby told the Herald-Press Tuesday.  “It is our duty to keep the public informed.  We can be actively educating everyone, if nothing else.”

In an effort to help pass public information quicker, Michele Herbert, community liaison for the Palestine Police Department, will temporarily work with City Secretary Teresa Herrera.  As city secretary, Herrera is the city’s public information officer during the emergency declaration.

“It’s my responsibility to get the mayor’s message to the public,” Herrera told the Herald-Press.  “Michele [Herbert] will be helping with Facebook updates, the city’s website, and day-to-day information.”

 PPD interim Chief Mark Harcrow told the Herald-Press public communication has vastly improved in the two years Herbert has been with the department.  “The department has worked very hard to improve communications, both in-person, and on social media,” he said.  “Michele [Herbert] has been a big part of that.”  Herbert’s help comes none to soon, Goolsby said.  “Is the community even aware of what they’re expected to do,” Goolsby asked during Monday’s council meeting.  “If we don’t tell businesses and residents we expect them to do ‘XYZ,’ then how can we hold them accountable?”  Goolsby also questioned Presley when he announced there were ‘enough COVID-19’ test kits for the community.  “He said they’d be replenished if we ran short, but couldn’t give a hard number on how many the county or the city has,” Goolsby said.  “How can we expect people to be comforted by information we don’t have?”  Presley said he will reach out to state and local health departments this week to ascertain the number of tests available to the community. Goolsby said timely and accurate reporting of what is expected of residents at that time is crucial.  “Everyone is saying their plates are full, and it’s hard to take on anything else,” Goolsby said.  “Well, my plate is full, too – everyone’s plate is full.  Having someone specifically responsible for communicating with the public, especially at this time is non-negotiable.”

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