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Rochelle City Council meets via Zoom online app

By Lucas C. Allison – Wilcox County Correspondent

The Rochelle City Council held its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday May 6th, keeping COVID-19 safety protocols in place the meeting was held via Zoom. They did not hold a meeting in April due to COVID-19. Mayor McGuinty, and Councilmen Greene, Lamb, and Tolliver were present in the Zoom meeting the entire meeting so a quorum was present, Councilman McDonald was on the phone call but lost the call during the meeting, Councilwoman Kemp was not present.

Mayor McGuinty began the meeting thanking all nurses, healthcare workers, first responders and law enforcement on how they have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also noted it was Teacher Appreciation Week and wanted to thank all the teachers on behalf of council and the city for their dedicated service. He also reported free COVID-19 testing in Rochelle on May 11th from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at First Baptist Church and also on May 16th from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Farmers Market in Abbeville. All testing is through the Department of Public Health. The Mayor also gave the monthly streets and maintenance report on behalf of Wallace Peacock.

Chief Mickey Barfield reported the monthly activity numbers to council and reported Municipal Court has been cancelled thru June 15th at least. He reported that POST Council had cancelled all training due to COVID-19 and would notify when it would resume. He reported they had a couple of large gatherings they had to disburse due to COVID-19 protocols and instructions from the Emergency Order implemented by Council. He stated his officers are equipped with needed PPE and are using when making traffic stops and answering calls. On a request by Chief Barfield the City Council approved the adoption of the Rochelle Police Department Policy and Procedures with no changes from the previous year.

Chad Griffith gave an update on the USDA project on Sook Road. He stated all was moving along well, and they are working with City Attorney Toni Sawyer who was present in the meeting on acquiring the right of ways needed for the project. Mrs. Sawyer gave a detailed update on properties they needed agreements from, and possible condemnation proceedings needed to acquire other properties needed since no responses have been received after notice sent certified mail. She also discussed problems acquiring an appraiser due to COVID-19, but stated she felt it would be best to appraise all at the same time to avoid delays.

The Council voted to require homeowners to discontinue the practice of placing trash collection receptacles in the alleys of city for pickup and to instead place them on the city street nearest their homes. The reason for this action is that trash collection vehicles are too heavy and causing severe damage to the alleys, he stated the last repair to water main due to trash truck crushing it was $8,000 and the city just cannot afford that type cost. Chief Barfield also stated to advise citizens to place trash containers on edge of road in grass not in the travel lanes as this creates a safety hazard for traffic. This change will become effective July 1st and will be printed on next water bills. The council approved the purchase of a new stove for city hall as the one currently in use is worn out and has been in use since city hall was built.

The council approved for the mayor and city clerk to open two new checking accounts at Colony Bank to facilitate USDA Grant funds as required by USDA. One account will be used to make payments to USDA and the other for USDA project transactions.

Councilman Lamb and Greene both thanked the Mayor for setting up the Zoom meeting so they could safely handle the affairs of the city. They both stated for the public safety of all they recommended and the Council approved that the June meeting of the Rochelle City Council will be held via Zoom as both of them are in the healthcare field and have been exposed to COVID-19 patients and they feel it would be the safest way to meet.

There being no further business the meeting was adjourned. Instructions for participating in the Zoom meeting in June will be posted on the City Hall door.