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Emergency ordinances approved

POSTED: April 3, 2007 5:14 a.m.
If — or when — a natural or manmade disaster strikes Liberty County, local officials have a set of ordinances in place to allow them to deal with the situation.
County commissioners this month adopted ordinances providing for evacuations, forbidding price gouging, allowing waiver of some regulations and giving the governing authority flexibility to deal with an emergency.
Emergency management chief Tom Burriss, in presenting the measures to the commission, said the ordinances mirror state law and follow recommendations from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.
In an actual disaster, officials expect state or federal action will take procedures and make the local “state of emergency” rules unnecessary. But they’re there if Liberty County needs them.
The evacuation provision would direct people to leave an area in which their health and safety would be in danger, or where their presence would hinder recovery work after a disaster.
Emergency workers such as law enforcement, rescue personnel, the news media and other essential workers would be allowed to remain in an evacuated area.
In one departure from the state recommendations, a minimum of four Liberty County commissioners will be required for official action during an emergency. GEMA recommends two elected officials be allowed to act in a state of emergency.
The commissioners will be permitted to meet in a secure location within Liberty
County or outside of it if they are unable to gather in their usual meeting site, and the chairman or any two members of the commission can call meetings without regard to “time-consuming procedures and formalities otherwise required by law.”
Purchasing rules, contracting regulations, zoning provisions and similar provisions can be waived by the county during a state of emergency.
A separate ordinance forbids overcharging for goods, materials, services and housing during a state of emergency or the subsequent recovery period. This is to prevent price gouging, defined as charging prices substantially more than customary charges.
In cases where the suppliers’ or providers’ costs may have increased, they may not charge substantially in excess of their costs.
Another ordinance requires the registration of all building and repair contractors who do business in Liberty County during a disaster or the recovery period. This is to protect citizens from scams and unscrupulous practices by those constructing, repairing, renovating and making improvements to structures damaged during a disaster.
 

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