As DeSoto County government moves into observing Gov. Tate Reeves’ Shelter in Place statewide order as of 5 p.m. Friday, April 3, government department heads told the Board of Supervisors how it intends to keep functioning during the state order.
Friday morning, April 3, supervisors reviewed each area’s situation and what it intends to do in response.
One item that was brought up addressed how the Sheriff’s Department intends to enforce the order, which mandates people perform only essential services outside of their homes until Monday morning, April 20, at 8 a.m.
Chief Deputy Justin Smith said he is aware that people fear deputies will be pulling cars over just to pull them over. Smith assured supervisors and the public that would not be the case.
“I think it’s terrifying for them that we’re going to come down as some kind of Gestapo and I want to avoid that,” Smith said. “An order from the governor does not trump the Constitution. We have absolutely no intention of stopping cars just to ask people where they are going or what they’re doing.”
Smith said the department is trying to send a clear message his deputies “would not be transitioning from protectors over to oppressors.”
The chief deputy admitted his awareness that people have fears and are unsure about how the order will be enforced.
“We’re going to use extreme discretion with the public in these matters,” Smith said. “We’re going to let the cities handle their business within their cities, but we’ll deal with the unincorporated areas and use common sense.”
Smith said if his deputies see a gathering “like a field party,” they will ask those people to leave.
“We don’t have any interest in being heavy-handed in this at all,” Smith said.
Smith was one of the many county department heads that detailed their plans to operate during the Shelter in Place order Friday in a two-hour long special meeting of the Board of Supervisors.
County Administrator Vanessa Lynchard said the main theme is to continue operating with as little person-to-person contact as possible and using what comes down to a skeleton crew of employees.
“We’re going to enforce compliance to minimizing interaction between people and continuing to serve the public,” said Lynchard. “That’s what the board’s mission is.”
In many cases, the current situation with DeSoto County and coronavirus means fewer people are out.
“Business is down because people are not getting out as much,” Lynchard explained. “We’re splitting some crews in some cases, and we’re handling our business through the mail, through the internet and that sort of thing, so the people can still be served. There are drop boxes in at as many of the offices as possible so that the people can drop their business off and they will be mailed the response.”
Justice Court and Emergency Management Agency (EMA) are considered essential services under the state order. EMA Director Chris Olson told the board that he and his employees “are in it for the long haul.” Justice Court Clerk Pat Sanford said more direction on his office would await a conference call scheduled that same day between the court judges. However, Sanford asked that office doors be closed and drop boxes be placed between civil and criminal cases for payments and other items.
Animal Services is limiting to two persons per appointment for animals at the shelter. Staffing has been cut to five per day and two officers per day are on duty for emergency calls and are on call at all times. Non-emergency or nuisance calls have been suspended for now and adoptions are now by appointment. Hours are from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, until 12 noon on Saturday and closed on Sunday.