City Council to meet only twice in April, move location to minimize risk from coronavirus

By HASKEL BURNS,

In keeping with guidelines, recommendations and regulations handed down by health and other local officials during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hattiesburg City Council has cut the number of its April meetings in half – from the usual four down to two – and will move those meetings from City Hall to a larger location.

The decision was made during a special-called meeting on March 25, when council members voted to forego the regular Monday and Tuesday sessions and schedule meetings for 4 p.m. on only April 7 and 21. Normally, council’s agenda reviews are held on the first and third Monday of every month, while the regular voting meetings are held the following day.

“When there’s a holiday on a Monday, we have our agenda setting and council meeting on Tuesday – we do it all in one day,” Council President Carter Carroll said. “We decided that we wanted to do that so we would have only two meetings in the month of April instead of four.

“So because we’re going to be doing both the agenda setting and the council meeting on (those two Tuesdays), we’re going to do it at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.”

Council members also voted to move the April meetings to the auditorium at Jackie Dole Community Center, 220 West Front St. in downtown Hattiesburg, where the larger space will allow for social distancing.

“The reason for that is that it’s so much larger, and we can put everybody 6 feet apart – our council members and the mayor and even the people in the audience,” Carroll said. “The chairs will be 6 feet apart, so we’re going to be practicing the social distancing that the (Centers for Disease Control) has recommended.”

By the time of the April 21 meeting, council members are expected to have a better idea of how to proceed, depending on the nature of the pandemic.

“If it has not peaked, if it’s still looking the same – which I’m kind of thinking it will – then we will extend it to May,” Carroll said. “But we didn’t want to extend it into the month of May (just yet) and then something happen or things clear up a little bit better.

“So we’ll just see, and then on the 21st of April we’ll make that decision, as to whether we’re going to continue doing this into May. And if we have to, we’ll go into June or July. But we are going to practice what we preach, and we’re asking everybody to do social distancing, and we’re going to do the same thing.”