With recent action by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson that extended the statewide "Stay Home Missouri" order through May 3, Rolla residents have called on the Rolla City Council to rescind the city's "Stay at Home" order that expires May 11.
With recent action by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson that extended the statewide "Stay Home Missouri" order through May 3, Rolla residents have called on the Rolla City Council to rescind the city’s "Stay at Home" order that expires May 11.
At Monday’s Rolla City Council meeting, Nicholas Barrack, who said he was representing several of the small businesses in the community, requested the city council have a first reading on an ordinance to rescind Rolla’s stay at home order so it would expire on May 3, when the state’s order is lifted.
Barrack said, “There’s a lot of businesses being punished right now because of somebody’s opinion that one million people would die got a lot of airtime last month. I believe we now have the data to make an educated decision about what to do in Phelps County.”
Rolla City Councilor David Schott said he understood where Barrack was coming from but worried that the month of staying at home would be fruitless if the city opened back up to business as usual.
Schott noted, “What is our local plan when we re-open, and if we do this, to reassure our community has the appropriate number of testing necessary to ensure we don’t have another outbreak here?"
Schott then questioned if anyone in favor of rescinding the city's stay at home order thinks it’s the end of the coronavirus in Rolla, stating, “Is there anybody who would take responsibility for this decision if the virus reappears on a larger scale in our community?”
Barrack said he didn’t think it was the end of the coronavirus and felt the coronavirus wasn’t going to be over for years.
“No it’s going to be there we have to live with it, the whole world has to live with it, and we can’t wait two years for the anti-virus or whatever it is to be developed,” Barrack said.
He added that the community needs to go on and do their best to protect the most vulnerable and convince people that are sick to stay home.
“I am all for testing, but I am not for holding up the economy until we test half of the people in Phelps County or even 10 percent of the people in Phelps County,” Barrack said.
Following Barrack’s comments, Rolla Mayor Louis Magdits said he and City Administrator John Butz would bring back recommendations and options on how the city could move forward at the council's next meeting in May.
Magdits said there are a lot of nuances and a lot of confusion with the city’s stay at home ordinance, and over the last couple of weeks, the ordinance is not as black and white as one may have thought.
“I will also add that I think there is a lot of unfairness. “I think there are small businesses that we closed down, and on any day of the week, there are national retailers that have full parking lots,” he said.
Magdits said it is also challenging to have state guidelines that are different than the city’s order.
While the state’s order does not explicitly, prohibit non-essential businesses, the city’s ordinance is more restrictive, stating all businesses and operations within the city of Rolla, except essential businesses and operations are required to cease all activities except for minimum basic operations.
Restaurants and retail food establishments that normally prepare food for on-site consumption are prohibited from conducting any dine-in food service. However, such businesses may provide pickup, drive-through, or delivery services so long as such business otherwise complies with the city’s stay at home order.
Magdits said he and Butz would continue to work on recommendations for the upcoming council meeting that will be in agreement with the health department and hospital, and it won’t be something they are going to on their own.
Magdits said in closing, “One of the things that I hear often when we talk about the people getting hurt, it’s the economy, it’s the business people and those are broad terms.
“The one that troubles me, and I might offend somebody with this comment, but so be it. There is a lot of people in this town getting paychecks because they work for a government entity, in one way or another.
“There’s a whole lot of people that are getting hurt today, and their lives are going to be ruined because they are out of a job. And that $1,200 or $1,500 bucks coming from the federal government is almost meaningless.
“So, I think we need to start looking at reality. The reality is people are going to get the virus. That’s a fact. We want to make sure we don’t encourage people to get the virus; I get it. We don’t want to overload the hospital; I get it.
“But we need to start thinking about the people who don’t have a job because their lives are being impacted as well.”
The Rolla City Council passed its stay at home order with a declaration of local emergency on March 30, which went into effect on April 6. The formal declaration of emergency authorized the mayor to close any and all sections or portions of city offices, buildings or properties under the city’s and city administrator to take the day to day actions as needed and in between council meetings.
City administration is meeting daily to exchange information, assess needs and make changes accordingly, according to Butz.
Rolla City Officials Powers’ in Case of an Outbreak of Contagious Disease
Legal counsel for the city looked into the legal authority a third-class statutory city has to prevent the spread of a contagious disease in the state of Missouri.
Attorney Lance Thurman read the memorandum he prepared for the council when the council passed the declaration of local emergency and stay at home order.
As a third-class city, the city’s powers fall almost entirely if not wholly under chapter 77, section 530, and section 560 of the revised statutes of the state of Missouri, according to Thurman.
Not only does a third-class city have the ability to do quarantines, but that power also extends five miles out into the county and is not solely left with the city. The power is in the hands of Phelps County as well.
Thurman said, “It does not say who has the highest authority in that regard. It does not characterize who it would prioritize over each, but I don’t think that would be an issue because it sounds very much like we are working in conjunction with them.”
The city can condemn or appropriate real property for compensation. This can be done by the city council enacting an ordinance to provide for the general procedure for condemnation of private property that can be taken for any necessary public purpose, according to chapter 88, section 497 and 073 of Missouri’s revised statutes.
Additionally, the city council is given the power to condemn real property to prevent the introduction and abate contagious diseases. The city can condemn real property based on location in the city and within ten miles from its limits for specific purposes, including hospital purposes and waterworks, according to chapter 77 section 530 of Missouri’s revised statutes.
The city council can enact an ordinance that would regulate, suppress or abate factories, warehouses, slaughterhouses, etc., to secure the general health of the city’s inhabitants, according to chapter 77, section 560 of Missouri’s revised statutes. Additionally, the city council can regulate or prevent any business that may be detrimental or dangerous to the public health.
The same power applies to manufacturing and the retail of goods “obnoxious to the health of the inhabitants.” The city council can also regulate and establish hospitals, police stations, fire stations, workhouses and poorhouses to secure the general health of the city per chapter 77, section 530 of Missouri’s revised statutes.
Thurman said the city does not have the authority to suspend the payment of rent or mortgages.
“Also, people need to understand that regardless of whether or not there is a moratorium on payments, that money is going to eventually come due one way or another regardless,” Thurman said.
There are also a couple of outer edge ideas, Thurman said that the city has the power to do. Public works can use prisoners from the city to do any necessary work using chapter 71, section 220 of Missouri’s revised statutes, which states that the city can cause everyone sentenced or convicted for a violation of city ordinances for imprisonment fine or both to be put to public works or labor on public buildings.
“This can be done by the city’s legislative body through ordinance for any purpose deemed necessary to the city. Also, calling on civilians to aid in enforcing the laws. The mayor can call on every male inhabitant of the city between the ages of 18 and 50 if necessary, to help in the enforcement of laws, which includes any issues of quarantine,” Thurman said.