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Emergency Declared In City, County


City Officials Close Parks, Limit Gatherings

WATER VALLEY – A state of emergency was declared in the City of Water Valley during a special city meeting Monday night to help minimize the impact of COVID-19. Mayor Donald Gray declared the state of emergency and aldermen unanimously ratified the declaration during the special called meeting that lasted from 5:15 to 6 p.m.

City officials imposed regulations as part of the declaration to help protect citizens and city workers, joining other municipalities struggling to combat coronavirus as the number of cases increase daily. The regulations include closing all city parks, effective immediately. The parks include Railroad Park, Baker Street Park, City Park, West Lee Street Park and Crawford Sports Complex. City workers will place signs on the parks to help notify the public.

City meetings and municipal court will be moved from the city hall to the more spacious city auditorium at 904 North Main Street.

The regulations also include prohibiting gatherings of 10 or more people for non-essential purposes. This includes non-essential businesses, as defined by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as social gatherings. The declaration does not regulate the number of people in essential businesses that include healthcare, grocery stores, convenience stores, pharmacies, parts houses, lumber stores, hardware stores and others as defined by the CDC.

A $500 fine was also included in the declaration as a last ditch effort to ensure compliance with the regulations, but officers will only resort to imposing the fine if warnings are not heeded.

The declaration will remain in effect until further action by the Board of Aldermen.

“It seems like our people are getting it,” Gray noted during discussion in the meeting. An example cited during the meeting was the decision by El Charrito Mexican Restaurant to voluntarily close their business after attempts to provide curbside service only were not effective.

Discussion during the meeting also focused on trying to minimize exposure for city workers, both to protect their health and to ensure city services are not disrupted.

“All non-essential action between departments and between department heads should be minimized as much as possible,” City Attorney Daniel Martin recommended as the threat of numerous city workers being exposed if one worker is infected with the virus was contemplated.

Gray said protective measures were enacted at city hall last week to ensure that all business is conducted in the lobby at the windows for the city clerk’s office and electric department.

The police department also enacted protection measures last Thursday, including handling non-emergency calls on the telephone, closing the police department lobby, stopping the fingerprinting service for the public and emailing copies of requested reports.

Police Chief Jason Mangrum stressed that officers are patrolling and answering emergency calls as always.

The chief cited examples of non-emergency calls that the department is not answering to minimize exposure for city officers that include unlocking vehicles or taking a report of a damaged mailbox if the complainant can take a picture of the damage and provide pertinent information on the phone. The phone number for non-emergency calls is (662) 473-2722. Dial 911 to report an emergency.

The city’s sanitation department requests that residents have their trash out by 7:30 a.m. each morning. Two trucks are running each day to divide the crews so if a worker is infected, all sanitation workers will not be exposed. Street Department Superintendent Michael Scroggins said that protection measures include disinfecting the trucks each day and wearing gloves.

“I have talked to each department head about what to do and hopefully everybody has a clear understanding. Certainly if one shows up sick, then they have to be tested and that will shut that department down,” Gray reported Monday night. He also said city workers have been reminded about the importance of not coming to work if they have symptoms including fever.

Water Valley Electric Department Superintendent Andy Hall also noted that he operates with a small crew who often work in close proximity, a risk that could shut down his department if one person is infected.

The declaration also gives the mayor the authority to work with department heads to work to continue to protect city workers.

Both aldermen and Gray were against imposing a curfew, a topic that also briefly surfaced in the meeting.

Yalobusha County Board of Supervisors President Cayce Washington and Yalobusha County EMA Director Frank Hyde also attended the meeting at the request of city officials to provide additional input.


Courthouses Limited To Essential Business

COFFEEVILLE – The Yalobusha County Board of Supervisors adopted an order declaring a local emergency that includes measures to protect courthouse workers and strongly encourages all churches, businesses and families to adhere to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Mississippi Department of Health guidelines of avoiding crowds or gathering of more than 10 people.

The declaration was adopted unanimously during Monday’s meeting in the Coffeeville courthouse after almost 45 minutes of discussion that primarily focused on limiting interaction between county employees and members of the public. The protective measures include locking the doors at both courthouses and only allowing access for business deemed essential by department heads. Signs are also posted on the doors that provide phone numbers for each department. If business is deemed essential, a county employee will allow a customer to enter through the east doors of either courthouse. 

Department heads are also directed to utilize measures that limit the risk of possible transmission of COVID-19 between governmental employees and members of the public. Measures include county employees utilizing personal protective equipment when interacting with customers. The entire notice is published on page 7.

The Discussion 

Board President Cayce Washington opened the discussion at Monday’s meeting, explaining that information flows from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and then to the county emergency management director.

“At the end of the day, the president and vice-president have said we are making these recommendations, but you have to make an order in your own communities about how you are going to handle these situations,” Washington explained.

EMA Director Frank Hyde then recommended that supervisors declare the local emergency.

“We could ask everybody to do it on a volunteer basis, as far following CDC and health department guidelines,” Hyde suggested. He also said if the guidelines aren’t followed, supervisors could be forced to take enforcement steps if necessary.

“Here is my thinking, the road crew guys are less susceptible than the people here in the courthouse. They are not going to be in close contact with a lot of people out there,” District 5 Supervisor Gaylon Gray said.

“It’s just like at the grocery store. You still have to tend to it, but it just has to happen very carefully,” Washington said about conducting essential business at offices in the courthouse. Ultimately his recommendation that each customer who must enter the courthouse for essential business would be allowed in and directed to the appropriate office.

(To make a phone payment for your county garbage bill, contact the county’s garbage department at (662) 675-8555. To make a phone payment for delinquent property taxes, vehicle tags or for other tax-related questions,  contact the tax assessor/collector’s office at (662) 473-1235.)

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