The City of Ellisville joined county supervisors and declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19 at Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Board of Aldermen.
Paul Sheffield of the Jones County Emergency Operations Center told the board that it would need to put policies in place to be consistent with other municipalities adopting those policies, as the county recently declared a state of emergency.
“We don’t have any (COVID-19) cases in our county yet,” Sheffield said Tuesday, one day before the first case in Jones County was reported. “This is an act of preparedness.”
Sheffield’s proposed measure relaxes purchasing laws for protective equipment for law enforcement and firefighters, fast-tracking purchases. Further, by being in a state of emergency, the city can adjust its court schedules and can send personnel home with pay.
“We need it in effect before we need it,” Mayor Lynn Buckhaults said.
Sheffield said, “We’re not on the train with everyone else” if the policy isn’t adopted, because the city wouldn’t be able to give its employees paid leave without reimbursement otherwise.
“I would advise doing business as usual as if this is a hurricane making landfall,” Sheffield said. “This has now become a reimbursable disaster like a tornado. If you don’t have the opportunity in place, there is a chance (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) would reject your request for reimbursement.”
“The fact is in rural areas like this, we work with skeleton crews anyway,” said City Attorney Randy Laird. “We have to stay up and running (with essential personnel). … That’s why it’s called public service.”
The board passed the measure unanimously.
In other business, the board adopted the Mississippi Public Service Commission’s emergency order for no water cutoffs for the next 60 days.
“My understanding is they want people to have soap and water to help with hygiene,” Buckhaults said. “The board should approve this policy to do what we can to flatten the curve on this.”
Customers will still be responsible for paying their water bills and are discouraged from taking advantage of the situation.
“The only change in our process is that they get a 60-day grace period before we cut their water off,” Laird said. “On day 61, we cut their water off (if it’s unpaid).”
The board unanimously approved the resolution.
“Who’s to say where we are with this virus in 60 days?” Laird said.
Finally, the board unanimously voted to cancel the Easter celebration in Dubose Park April 4.
“The Easter Bunny will hopefully come next year,” Buckhaults said.