ANNISTON, Ala. (WBRC) - Anniston's city council votes to make an emergency declaration in the city.
The council voted Wednesday night to give Mayor Jack Draper emergency powers to call special meetings entirely by teleconferencing if necessary, something Governor Kay Ivey had approved earlier in the day.
It allows him to rent equipment and sign contracts, related to the fight against COVID-19, among other things.
One controversial part of the resolution allows public comments to be suspended from council meetings during the pandemic, to put as few people as possible at risk. Council members Ben Little and David Reddick opposed this part.
"I'll never approved anything that silences the voice of the people," Reddick said.
Council member Millie Harris said doing away with public comments prevented putting more people at risk. Council member Jay Jenkins said he was always available to talk to anyone at anytime.
This resolution had been in the works for days, but it came on the day the state health department announced the county had its first coronavirus diagnosis.
"We don't know where in Calhoun County this patient is, but it tells us, look, this is serious, and we have to take this seriously. We don't need to panic, we need to be level headed, but we need to be responsible for each other, and care for each other," Draper told WBRC after the meeting.
It also comes one day after the city of Oxford passed a similar declaration.
Draper says if the council does hold an emergency meeting entirely by phone, the audio will be made pubic in real time.
City officials have also canceled all rentals of the city’s venues, including the Anniston City Meeting Center and various community centers, after the CDC warned against gatherings of more than 50 people.