The mayor of Brunswick may soon have the authority to declare state of emergencies without the consent of the city commission.
A proposed ordinance scheduled for a vote Oct. 18, would allow the mayor the authority to declare curfews and also provides emergency purchasing powers without advertising periods and special commission meetings to approve bids.
“This is important because the mayor has the responsibility of all the citizens,” said Mayor Cornell Harvey on Wednesday. “Even though the amendment will give me the authority to do certain things like lift a curfew, I will still communicate with the city commission about my decisions.”
The county government has a similar ordinance that places emergency powers in the hands of the Glynn County Commission chairman.
“The city never technically needed the approval from the Glynn County Emergency Management Agency to declare an emergency that power rested with the city commission,” said Brunswick City Manager Jim Drumm. “This ordinance now gives the power to the mayor. We certainly would coordinate with the Glynn County Emergency Management Agency on any emergency in or out of the city.”
Passage of the new ordinance also would grant the city manager authority to enter private property, something Drumm said would be delegated to employees under the city manager’s span of control, such as the police, fire personnel and possibly damage assessment personnel.
“This would allow fire and rescue and police to enter damaged homes to look for survivors or possibly those that died during an emergency,” Drumm said. “It could also apply to buildings that are unstable and need to be reviewed by building inspectors or engineers.”
Drumm clarified the only scenario he would find himself entering someone’s home would be if he was volunteering as part of search and rescue mission and needed to go in with fire and safety personnel.
“These are powers we do not wish to have to use, but may one day need to use for the purpose of public health and safety reasons,” Drumm said. “Under property rights, if we knock on the door during an emergency and no one answers, police and fire do not have the right to enter a home. Under this ordinance, I could delegate public safety officers or engineers to go in.”
The ordinance was prepared by the Georgia Municipal Association and is described as a model ordinance, which has been adopted in several Georgia cities.
“The need for the new ordinance came up last year during Hurricane Matthew, when we had to get a commission majority on the telephone to conduct short emergency meetings for emergency declarations, policies and curfews,” Drumm said.
City officials have already tried out the new emergency powers, Drumm said.
“This year, just prior to (Hurricane) Irma, the city commission adopted the ordinance as an emergency temporary policy, with a short, 30-day effective period,” Drumm added. “The policies in the ordinance worked well, with the mayor and I in the emergency operations center, coordinating smoothly the city’s needs and emergency policies with the policies being issued by county officials, (which) was cumbersome last year.”
A proposal to amend the city’s code of ordinances, creates the new Chapter 25, Emergency Management Ordinance that has already been presented to the full commission.
The Brunswick Commission will meet at 6 p.m. at Old City Hall, 1229 Newcastle St.
The ordinance goes into effect immediately after approval.