During its first work session this morning, the new Pickens County Board of Commissioners (BOC) planned to schedule public hearings to amend the county’s emergency management ordinance.
The hearings are expected for later this month.
Previously, the ordinance as presented on the Pickens County website caused concern among citizens. In the October commissioner’s meeting, Citizen Jeff Anderson noted that the ordinance on the website violated the Constitutional Rights of citizens. During last month’s commissioner’s meeting, Anderson specifically pointed out section 22-34, numbers 2 and 3. According to the ordinance on the website, numbers two and three define powers given to the county in the state of emergency and read as follows: (2) Seizing or taking for temporary use, any private property for the protection of the public; 3) Selling, lending, giving, or distributing all or any such property or supplies among the inhabitants of the county and maintaining a strict accounting of property or supplies distributed and for funds received for such property or supplies.
Pickens County EMS Director Bob Howard, though, attempted o clarify these items this morning. Howard said an initial emergency ordinance was adopted by the county in 1997. He went on to say, though, that the county revised the ordinance in 2008, which he said, Commissioner Jones signed off on. He also said the 2008 version is the current and valid emergency ordinance.
“For some reason,”
“it did not make the municipal code website so the 97’ ordinance still shows up on the website,”
saying it was probably an oversight on his part.
Howard said the two things that were changed from 97’ to 08’ were the powers during an emergency section and the way the county operates the emergency management system. Numbers two and three from section 22-34 were omitted from the 97’ version for the 08’ version—the passages pointed out by Mr. Anderson last month. Regarding the county’s emergency operations, Howard said rather than being in charge of the core emergency functions---Law Enforcement, Fire, EMS, Health Dept, Road Dept,--he is not responsible for the heads of some of those departments.
In his commentary during the work session, Howard also said he has submitted a few other changes for approval by the new commission board, which includes changing “sole commissioner” to “board” and changing penalties for violators of the ordinance from felony to misdemeanor.
Previously, Mr. Anderson recommended using Fannin County’s Emergency Ordinance. Today, though, Howard said the Fannin Ordinance would not apply to Pickens County due to the wording, saying Pickens does not have the authority to enter private property without consent of the owner. As such, he said this was left out of the Pickens version.
“So, this ordinance right here does everything that the Emergency Management needs to do to get the job done,”
Howard said. Anderson, however, was not satisfied. Although not present at this morning’s workshop, Anderson watched a video of it. In an email to FYN this evening, Anderson asserted the process needed more public input.
“I'm all for protecting and giving top quality emergency services to our citizens,”
“but protecting their rights should not be forgotten nor overlooked. Especially after seeing what laws we were living under, provided to us for free, by our very own state government. If there (are) problems with it, let's address them together.”
Mr. Anderson and the rest of the public will have a chance to offer input during public hearings starting later this month. A date for the first public hearing has not been established yet. Chairman Jones also said that the proposed ordinance will be posted on the county website for public review prior to the hearings.