Osceola Council meets outside city hall

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

A special called Osceola City Council meeting was held Friday afternoon outside city hall with all council members and guests maintaining the six foot social distance guidelines. Mayor Sally Wilson opened the meeting thanking Dr. Reggie Cullom, M.D.; Dr. Toriano Green, assistant superintendent with Osceola School District; and Wayne Reynolds, with Mississippi County office of Emergency Management, for their assistance to the city during the Coronavirus pandemic. Mayor Wilson invited the guests to offer an update on COVID-19 and offer safety tips. She pointed out city hall offices are closed to the public and all business is conducted through the drive-through services and by telephone.

She said all office employees wear masks when they come into the building.

She stressed the importance of trying to keep all employees from getting sick. She welcomed Dr. Cullom who spoke briefly.

“Nothing is 100 percent,” Dr. Cullom said. “The press gives the worst case scenarios. No one thinks we will have the worst with 100,000 deaths. We know the limits on social gatherings but you also need to know who you are beside.”

He went on to say the N 95 masks do protect from the virus but the regular surgical mask will prevent putting the virus in the air. He said to protect patients, they come in one at a time. He stressed to everyone to protect themselves and everyone else. Living in a small town is a plus and he encourages people not to go on a cruise and do what they are told to do through this time. He said by May 1 the virus should be far enough along to see where the curve is.

“There has to be an end of doing what we want to when we want to,” Dr. Cullom said.

Dr. Green thanked the community, cafeteria workers and volunteers who have been helping feed the children while school is out.

“Our kids are getting their basic needs met,” he said. “We fed 260 yesterday. If anyone knows kids who need food, please let us know, (call 870-822-0622) we will feed all of the kids in the area. They don’t have to be a student in the Osceola school. When the Governor says we can go back to school, we will.”

Mayor Wilson introduced FEMA representative Wayne Reynolds, with Mississippi County Emergency Services, and thanked him for sharing information on a daily basis.

Reynolds said Arkansas has 381 cases of the Coronavirus in the state as of today with none in Mississippi County.

“That may or may not change,” he said.

Reynolds informed the group if anyone calls 911 they will be asked questions for a health screening over the phone. This will alert the first responders if there is a need for PPE (personal protection equipment). PPE is getting in short supply and difficult to get.

“I have some on order but since we have no cases in Mississippi County, we may not be on the priority list,” he said. “We have conferences every day receiving updated information.”

He encouraged everyone to try to do county business on-line or by phone, limit person to person contact, limit trips to the courthouses.

“Any donations would be welcome, Reynolds said. “If anyone has masks or other equipment, I would be happy to get it to first responders. You can email OEM@MississippiCountyAR.org. I have 5,000 masks and 6,000 gloves on order coming from California.”

He said he had a small supply of N 95 masks to donate to law enforcement. He also reached out to Congressman Rick Crawford’s office.

Mayor Wilson expressed her appreciation to the interim Fire Chief Peter Hill and his department.

Councilwoman Sandra Brand talked about safety measures being taken at the nursing homes with a step-down unit. She explained when nursing home patients are released from the hospital they will go to the step-down unit to protect all of the residents for 14 days. Also all new residents will go to the step-down unit for the first 14 days.

Ordinance setting water and sewer rates for out-of-town nonelectrical customers in the Driver/Grider area was discussed.

Mayor Wilson said a public meeting was held since the first reading at the last meeting. Council members unanimously approved the second and third readings and the adoption of the Ordinance along with the emergency clause.

Resolution to adopt Section 125 Premium only approved unanimously as presented by Jane Stanford, HR director.

Stanford then presented two additional resolutions.

Resolution for old city hall electrical wiring through a historic preservation restoration grant application passed 6-0.

Resolution to adopt Seminole Contracting for the work on Coston Building, phase 3. Stanford said they had four come and look at the building and only one bid.

Contracts for the Chamber of Commerce, SHIFT shelter/soup kitchen and Main Street Osceola were discussed.

Councilman Tyler Dunegan, chair for the utilities committee, said the committee had met and removed the word “grant” from the contracts because services are provided to the city.

Mayor Wilson said the Chamber is expecting a decision by the end of March. The Chamber contract passed unanimously.

SHIFT contract passed unanimously following a 6-0 vote to remove the 2019 utility debt. Dunigan explained SHIFT received the bills last year but had an agreement that they would not be charged. They will be responsible for the utilities from January.

Main Street contract did not get a motion to move forward.

Brand made a motion to move the Main Street money to be used elsewhere.

Mayor Wilson said they might need to get the city attorney’s opinion before amending the budget to move the money.

Mayor Wilson said with all of the issues going on, the city’s collections will be down.

“We are one of 14 cities in the state with our own electricity in our situation,” she said. “ We pay up front and if we can’t make collections it may be difficult. We are looking at what others are doing. We will look for every bit of help we can get.”

Mayor Wilson said there are a lot of questions and she will continue working on the issues.

Osceola Chief of Police Ollie Collins addressed the council about the need for additional officers. Right now they need four and will need five in May.

Three officers will be going to the police academy.

Chief Collins requested lifting the ban on officers' requirement to live in Osceola to span out across Mississippi County.

Mayor Wilson said they will need to talk to the city attorney to see if they can lift the ban from one department without lifting it on all city employees.

The council voted to lift the ban on police officers required to live in Osceola pending a favorable legal opinion.