NOTE: The original story has been corrected from the initial version to reflect that the council voted down the proposed measure and not did table it.
At a special session of the Neosho City Council held on Monday evening and live streamed on both social media and local television websites, council members voted unanimously against the proposed "stay at home" ordinance.
All five council members along with the city clerk, city manager, and city attorney were present for the meeting which lasted about one hour.
If passed, the stay-at-home ordinance would have made any violation a misdemeanor offense.
Since the measure was rejected but the council can bring it back for discussion or amend it at a later date but it can't pass without another vote.
"It's a serious matter. It's not a hoax," Councilman Carmin Allen said about COVID-19. "It's here. We're here to protect the city."
Several council members are small business owners including Angela Thomas, Jon Stephens and Tom Workman.
"I'm a small business owner and I'm not for that (the ordinance)," Stephens said during discussion. "We are not here to be people's parents. We are not the police."
Thomas, who like her fellow council members voted to table the ordinance,said "I have closed my business for now and I don't know where that will end up on the other side of this."
Discussion centered around the opposition expressed by numerous small business owners who shared their thoughts with a special email address created by the city to receive input and the fact that, although many local residents are observing social distancing, some are not. Educating the public and urging voluntary compliance was something all five council members agreed on at the meeting.
"I think our best bet is to get the people educated," Councilman Tom Workman said.
Although it was noted that the pandemic might affect future events including Celebrate Neosho and the annual Fall Festival, the council was in agreement to table the ordinance, then return to it, if the situation worsens and the cases numbers of COVID-19 rise.
Council members also agreed that that such a mandate should come from the Governor or President.
"We will abide by whatever our governor decides to do," Allen stated.
On Monday, Governor Parson announced the extension of social distancing into April but has not initiated any type of state shut down although the surrounding states of Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma all have done so.
"We're not people's parents. We're not the police. We're not God," Stephens reiterated. "It's the city of Neosho. It's not Washington."
If conditions warrant, the council may revisit the proposed stay at home ordinance at the next regular council meeting on Tuesday, April 7.
For now, however, it's business as usual - with social distancing in place - in Neosho although a number of local businesses, the local movie theater, library, and schools have closed. La-Z-Boy Midwest, which employs around 800 people also closed along with all other U.S. La-Z-Boy locations effective on Monday.
"Let our city know we're ready (to act) if things go wrong," Allen said. "If we do nothing and a pandemic hits, we'll be run out of town."