OKOLONA – Melvin Burks was hired to do a job and he was before Okolona Aldermen last week warning them about political fallout from the tickets he is writing.
Aldermen met with Burks as they added language to their ordinance that will allow Burks to collect fees at the city pound and return dogs to their owners.
“I appreciate you setting up this office to work effectively,” said Burks. “I do want to warn you that I have written 72 tickets this week and they will start heading to court.
“As you know people get upset when you come on their property and write them a ticket for their pet,” he added. “I know they will be coming to you seeking relief. I’m just doing what the law and the ordinance says.”
Ward 2 Alderman Bennett Moore said he felt Burks was doing a good job and urged him to clean up the town.
“I don’t see as many dogs running loose as I used to,” said Moore. “We need to support him when it comes to vicious animals.”
Aldermen did voice concerns about carrying police officer with him to write tickets. The board said they had heard from residents who took issue with an armed policeman on their property who was not conducting an investigation.
“I am the only animal control officer you have and sometimes it’s good to have an officer with you,” said Burks. “People say a lot of things and having an officer their who can back up what happened and what exactly was said can help me in court.”
Aldermen reminded Burks the city has an ordinance requiring the owner of a vicious dog to register that dog with the city, keep it in a pen and have home liability insurance that can be used if the animal hurts someone or destroys property.
“I will write tickets when something is brought to my attention,” said Burks. “But when I write tickets, people are going to kick back. I need your support if I am going to do my job.”
In other business:
• The board was approached by Anthony Moore who said he was stopped by an Okolona Police Officer, but it was a Mississippi Highway Patrolman who wrote him a ticket for DUI.
“The city police stopped me and then the highway patrol guy took over the stop and took me to jail,” said Moore. “He also put the cuffs on me and body slammed me.
“I don’t think that was right,” Moore added. “And I sure don’t have the $400 for the fine.”
Ward 5 Alderman Mary Gates said she has repeatedly heard from people who say police are violating the rights of African-American men.
“As a board we have talked about this and it is going on,” said Gates. “If this keeps up we may need to do away with the police department and let the county handle law enforcement over here.”
Okolona Police Chief Willie Moore said the officer who made the stop did not have a portable alcohol breath analyzer at the scene and the Highway Patrol was called to assist.
Mayor Louise Floyd-Cole asked Moore to contact her about this situation after he went to court.
• The board approved purchasing a new pickup for the Okolona Electric Department.
• Aldermen approved the selling of a city Chevrolet van and Dodge pickup as surplus property.
• Aldermen also discussed dispatching of electric workers and the current arrangement where after-hour calls roll-over to the Okolona Fire Department.
• The city approve minutes of previous meetings and approved the February bills and payments.