City council chooses new mayor, discusses coronavirus

Lee Ann Murphy
Community Editor
James Carter, Neosho, received a Life Saving Award from the city for his quick actions in saving a juvenile from flooded Hickory Creek in Morse Park during recent flooding.

At the regular meeting of the Neosho City Council on Tuesday, canvassed the returns of the June 2 election and accepted the returns for the election of a new council member, Tyler DeWitt, as well as the public safety sales tax.

The city and council both recognized outgoing council member Jon Stephens for his service since April 2017. Stephens was defeated in a three-way race for a single 3-year term on the council in the recent election. Tyler DeWitt was sworn in to serve on the council.

A Life Saving Award was presented to James Carter of Neosho by Chief of Police Jason Baird.

"On May 28, 2020, there were five juveniles that decided it would be a good idea to hop into the floodwaters south of the handicap dock on Hickory Creek in Morse Park.," Baird said. "One of them didn't fare so well and we have a citizen here who jumped in and risked his own life to get this kid out and everybody came out okay. It's my honor as police chief to present a life saving award to this citizen."

Carter was present to receive the award and stated he was glad he had been there.

The council also voted unanimously to elect Carmin Allen, who has served as mayor pro tempore for the past year, as Mayor and councilwoman Angela Thomas as the mayor pro tempore.

DeWitt was sworn into office for his term.

Bill 2020-989 that will address nuisances in the city was passed with a unanimous vote.

On the items on the agenda was the proposed repeal of Bill 2020-980, which dealt with local measures for the coronavirus outbreak. The bill was not repealed after discussion among the council and city staff.

"This is dealing with COVID-19," Mayor Allen said. "Joplin and several of the communities around us are setting guidelines and we're working for a partnership so we can be consistent. I think some of this is a little stricter than what I want to be. Joplin has ten people to a church - I want to make a chance on that to 50% for our churches, the same as every other business and that's my recommendation."

"I'd give a 100% to the churches," Councilman Tom Workman said. "100% of them go to Wal-Mart."

Allen noted that Wal-Mart is still counting occupancy but stated, "I think the churches need a little more leeway than the businesses do."

Joplin has set a target date of July 1 to see how things are trending and the council agreed with that date.

Neosho City Attorney Steve Hays offered clarification to the council.

"We're not really discussing the repeal of bill - although that could certainly happen bur more of an amendment of this bill, changing it to better fit the wishes and desires of the council. That can be done.

There was an ordinance passed that gave the city manger authority to make various changes. If it's the consensus of the council, those changes can be made. With direction of council, it can be before the city manager tomorrow or Thursday for him to execute. I would ask the council to give the direction so we can make the changes and get it before the city manager. For the churches, it would be in place by Sunday, certainly."

Council agreed that City Manager David Kennedy could make the changes as needed.

Councilwoman Thomas asked if she could read a proposal she's been working on and the mayor agreed.

"I have a proposal here that I've written up," she said. "It's something I've been working on with Access Health Care and the health department."

Noting that Newton, Jasper and McDonald counties in Southwest Missouri have become hot spots fo COVID-19, her proposal suggests that each workplace have a plan in place to test all employees for coronavirus, with emphasis on food processing and manufacturing plants.

"I propose the City of Neosho coordinate efforts with Access Health Care, the Newton County Health Department and Freeman Hospital to establish a testing program available to individuals who live or work in Newton County."

Thomas listed the goals of the proposal which include early detection to minimize the risk or serious illness or death, early detection to provide for immediate quarantine efforts, detection, quarantine and early treatment to protect both employers and employees from financial losses, and to utilize these partnerships and resources to educate businesses, employees and citizens.

She also noted that she believes that masks, used widely and worn properly, are a valuable tool in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Thomas was the sole council member who wore a mask at the meeting.

Thomas plans to reach out to the entities and report back to council what is in the works, noting that the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce was also evolving a similar plan.

In other business, the council voted to donate $2,000 to the Crowder College Roughrider annual rodeo, approved an ongoing mutual aid agreement with the Joplin Police Department and appointed Chief Baird as the Traffic Commission Chairman.

The city council will next meet in regular session on Tuesday, July 7 at 7 p.m. at City Hall, located on the Southeast corner of the Neosho Square.