Poplarville’s ordinance book confounds city employees

Published 7:00 am Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Poplarville Board of Aldermen had a unique task put before them last month; revamping the city’s ordinance books that often befuddle the Poplarville Police Department.

During a meeting held last month, Police Chief Butch Raby laid out the department’s large ordinance book on the aldermen’s desk, flipping through hundreds of pages that were not properly indexed, and many of which were severely outdated.

While the bulk of the city’s ordinances were updated in the 90s, others are much older.

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“There’s stuff in here from 1905,” Raby said, including an ordinance that says residents should honk twice on their way into town, and once on their way out.

Other pages are filled with Board minutes and ordinances dating back to the early 20th century, many of them handwritten and illegible.

Board Attorney Nick Thompson had the documents scanned, for what appears to be the first time in city history. While some of the more recent ordinances are posted on the city’s website, the rest could only be found in these large binders, City Clerk Jane O’Neal said.

The scanned book, in total, amounts to 390 pages of material.

Among ordinances mandating the prevention of sheep and hogs running at large, one ordinance, which is barely legible and dated to 1905, states a railcar cannot block traffic for more than five minutes. On the same page, the Board banned willful disturbance of a person or family by using explosives, specifically gunpowder.

In a list of concealed deadly weapons prohibited under a 1905 ordinance, a slingshot was listed in addition to other deadly weapons like a kitchen knife and brass knuckles.

Some pages aren’t even dated, including one ordinance that appears to have been using a typewriter which states all “pool rooms” must be closed between 10 p.m. and 9 a.m., punishable by a fine between $10 and $100.

A 1907 fine for littering was set at $2.50 for each offense.

In 1912, the Board prohibited any vehicles from traveling over or through the ditches on either side of Main Street. That next year, the Board passed ordinances mandating a 10 mile per hour speed limit in the city as well as prohibiting anyone under the age of 18 from driving.

The inconsistency and unorganized nature of the book can cause more practical problems for the police department, like how to deal with fruit vendors on the side of the highway, Raby said.

Vendors are supposed to have a permit from City Hall, but Raby said one old ordinance states it’s unlawful to sell or vend fruit unless the seller is a farmer selling his own crops.

“We can’t enforce these,” Raby said. “We need to get in the 21st century…this is a joke, but we need to look at it from a legality standpoint too.”

City Clerk Jane O’Neal said the ordinances need to be reviewed and placed in a bound book.

Thompson said they should also be made available online for easy public access.

Mayor Rossie Creel suggested all Board members review the documents and pull out ordinances which are outdated or need to be removed.

The Board members were each given a scanned copy of the document to sort through. It planned to meet again and hold workshops on the issue in September after the city’s budget has been set.

About Julia Arenstam

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