Local agencies declare state of emergency

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Pearl River County Board of Supervisors proclaimed a local emergency Monday in response to the impact of COVID-19, the new coronavirus. The city of Picayune also declared a state of emergency Monday afternoon during a special call meeting. Poplarville’s Board of Aldermen is expected to make a similar declaration Tuesday.
City of Picayune Mayor Ed Pinero said that the Council decided to make that declaration should assistance from the state or federal government be needed in the future.
In regard to the Board of Supervisors, only essential county services will be available. Residents can call the county switchboard at 601-403-2300 before visiting a county office to determine if their business is considered essential.
Highland Community Hospital Regional Administrator Bryan Maxie recommended postponing and closing everything possible and Dr. Angela Jones urged the Board to err on the side of caution.
Chimney Square will be temporarily closed to the public beginning Wednesday. The tax assessor’s/collector’s office in that building will still be able to conduct business through its drive through window.
The Chancery Court has implemented telephone and video conferencing hearings at no cost to attorneys or litigates, which is expected to be in place Wednesday.
The Board discussed closing the courthouses down, but county Attorney Joe Montgomery pointed out that courts must remain available in case they are needed and County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin said he believes that the Board does not have the authority to close the courthouses without state authorization. Courts remain open for commitments, including mental health and drug or alcohol related commitments. However, the Board decided to limit county services to only essential services. Which services are considered essential was left to department heads to determine.
Cleaning the county courthouses is presenting a challenge, because the county inmates are on lockdown to protect the jail from having cases of COVID-19, said Board President Sandy Kane Smith. Typically inmates from the county jail work to help clean the courthouse.
The Board and county judges discussed the possibility of setting up video conferencing for court proceedings within separate rooms in the county courthouse.
The Board did determine that the county courthouse will be limited to one entrance, and people will have to speak with a county employee at the entrance of the building to determine if their business is essential. The Board asked that all residents call before coming to a county office, to see if their business is essential or if it can be completed online, through the mail or over the phone.
All events at the county fairgrounds have been canceled until further notice.
The Poplarville Board of Aldermen plans to make an emergency declaration during Tuesday’s Board meeting set for 5 p.m. on March 17, said Mayor Rossie Creel. The city of Poplarville closed the lobby of City Hall until further notice, and all business transactions are being handled through the drive through to protect citizens and employees. While the Board will abide by the Open Meetings Act, members of the Board recommend the public stay home. Attendees will have to answer a screening questionnaire at the door before entering the boardroom. The Board will not issue party or event permits for city parks until further notice.

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