THOMASVILLE — In an hour-long meeting Tuesday night, Thomasville City Council voted unanimously to declare a state of emergency and voted 3-2 to approve an emergency management-related ordinance on first reading.
If second reading of the ordinance is approved at a Wednesday night meeting, powers authorized and described in the new ordinance will become operative during the declared state of emergency.
The split vote was on an ordinance to delete the existing emergency management ordinance in the city code and replace it with wording that would allow the city manager to do what is necessary for the safety of residents in an emergency during a declared emergency of 30 days.
A city council vote would be required to enact restrictions on travel within the city.
The proposed ordinance would give the city manager the authority for 30-day periods to take some actions for the safety of residents.
The ordinance would give the city manager the authority to direct and compel evacuations, provide provisions for temporary housing, transfer city personnel to areas where needed and use public property as needed, among other acts.
The ordinance also would give the city manager the authority to prevent utilities disconnections during the 30-day period. The council could vote to add or lessen days to the period.
City Attorney Tim Sanders told the council a 4-1 or unanimous vote would be required for the code ordinance change to be read on first and second readings under an emergency resolution.
Mayor Greg Hobbs and Council member Wanda Warren cast opposing votes to the code change. The two votes against make it necessary to conduct another meeting for a second reading before the code change can go into effect with the state of emergency declaration.
Prior to the vote, Warren said the ordinance change is not needed.
Hobbs acknowledged the coronavirus pandemic, saying it arrived quickly.
“If it’s not broken, why fix it?” the mayor asked.
The public has not had time to understand the situation, Hobbs said. The council has not had time to discuss the matter, “but y’all been passing emails back and forth.”
Said Warren, “This authority is given to an elected official, not an employee.”
Hobbs asked City Manager Alan Carson what was not in the current ordinance that he needed.
Carson responded that the coronavirus is a different situation and not an event that can be monitored from a drone or helicopter.
Mayor pro tem David Hufstetler said some county officials expressed concern about the proposed ordinance change interfering with private property and people.
Hufstetler said the council should give the city manager the tools he needs “with strict guidance.”
Hufstetler and council members Jay Flowers and Todd Mobley cast votes for the emergency resolution to allow second reading at the Tuesday meeting.