Olive Branch City Hall

Two DeSoto County cities that had civil emergency ordinances in place as part of a response to the coronavirus pandemic have terminated those ordinances. Olive Branch and Southaven took the action during their regular Board of Aldermen meetings Tuesday evening.

The City of Olive Branch also had a local emergency declaration it separately made and aldermen voted to continue the local emergency through at least May 19. Aldermen are expected to review the extension and, depending on the situation, possibly rescind that declaration on that date in May.

The impact of extension primarily allows the city to make some needed purchases without having to seek multiple quotes, explained City Attorney Bryan Dye during Tuesday’s meeting.

“The real practical effect of the local emergency is that it gives the city some relief from some of the purchasing laws,” Dye explained. “If there was a need to buy in excess of $5,000 of sanitation supplies, and it was a type of supply that we did not get a second quote, the local emergency would make that a legal purchase, whereas until normal circumstances you would need to have a second quote. It gives the city some flexibility.”

Both Olive Branch Mayor Scott Phillips and Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite noted at their meetings that their civil emergency ordinances were enacted before Gov. Tate Reeves announced his Shelter-in-Place directive.

“We still had the ability to go stricter, but we felt what the governor put in place I felt was sufficient,” Phillips said. “At this time, what the governor has put in place is still in place. I do not feel like our civil emergency should be extended at this particular point in time because the governor has his order in place.”

Musselwhite used the same reasoning in his request to cancel the civil emergency for Southaven.

“It’s not necessary for us to have the civil emergency ordinance in place,” Musselwhite explained. “We will just abide by the governor’s Shelter-in-Place order until we have leniency of the city to revise our comeback plan.”

Phillips expected Gov. Reeves to announce some easing of restrictions to start next week and the city will follow whatever the governor decides to do.

“I anticipate the governor will have another order in place on April 28 when his order expires that will allow businesses to reopen as he indicated, but, with rules in place and different things of that nature,” Phillips said. “I think it would be wise that this board cancel this civil emergency at this time and then if we get further than the governor’s orders, we would consider another civil emergency at that time.”

On Friday, April 17, Musselwhite presented his “33/50/100 Comeback Plan,” a plan he has proposed to gradually bring Southaven’s economy as closer a normal position as possible, but phased in over a period of time.

It was believed that his plan would be voted on Tuesday evening, but Musselwhite asked the vote be delayed until Reeves’ announcement next week on how the state should move forward.

Action on the plan has not been taken by the Board of Aldermen, as Musselwhite pointed out again on Tuesday.

“This is contingent on Gov. Reeves allowing us this leniency,” Musselwhite said. “It’s a proposed plan and has not been implemented. The dates I presented are subject to change.”

Under the mayor’s proposal, non-essential businesses would be required to allow only 33 percent of occupancy limits until mid-May, when that would increase to 50 percent of occupancy limits. Restrictions would be removed in June and distancing requirements would still be in effect.

Non-essential businesses currently may operate on a curbside basis, according to Gov. Reeves’ most-recent directive.

The specific dates of his plan were subject to change, but now Musselwhite wants to hear from the governor’s office before enacting his proposal. He also wants some lead time ahead of Reeves’ decision being made public.

“I’ve reached out to Gov. Reeves’ office to explain that big cities like Southaven need a reasonable amount of turnaround time to communicate that to our public and he was really receptive to that,” Musselwhite said. “So I’m hoping that he will update the state so that we can immediately start working on amending what he does with our plan so we can have something ready for the board at a special meeting, where we can get together and officially implement the plan.”