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Marion County and Ocala officials follow governor’s lead with emergency orders

Marion County and Ocala officials followed Gov. Ron DeSantis’ lead on Friday by declaring states of emergency as a strengthening Hurricane Dorian roars toward Florida.

The Marion County Commission held a special meeting on Friday to declare a state of emergency prior to Hurricane Dorian making landfall in Florida.

The Marion County Commission held a special meeting at 11:30 a.m. and quickly agreed to enact the order for the county. That action officially activated the county’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan and gave Commission Chairman Michelle Stone the “power, authority and duty” to take actions to preserve the “health, welfare and safety” of county residents.

The emergency order also calls for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and the Division of Emergency Management to provide overall coordination for county response. And county agencies are instructed to coordinate through those offices regarding any assistance provided and to be available if called into action.

The order also gives County Administrator Mounir Bouyounes the authority to activate, deploy and provide additional compensation for employees called into service in relation to Hurricane Dorian. And it gives the commission the authority to enact measures for emergency removal of debris from public and private property if need be.

Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn, Council President Pro-Tem Jay Musleh and Councilman Matthew Wardell

Meanwhile, earlier Friday morning, the Ocala City Council held its own special meeting and adopted a resolution putting the city under a prospective state of emergency. The order, which will be in affect as long as the one issued by DeSantis remains active, was put in place so that officials are in a better position to deal with any damage left behind if Hurricane Dorian hits the area next week as it’s being projected to do.

The order calls for the city to utilize staff to help maintain public order, restore public services and utilities and clear the streets. And it allows city officials to enter into contracts with third parties to provide needed services and equipment if necessary.

The order also gives authority to the council president, or in her absence the council pro-tem, and the mayor to take necessary actions consistent with any orders issued by the governor as a result of the hurricane. The council acknowledged that President Mary Sue Rich is currently unavailable, so that responsibility will fall to President Pro-Tem Jay Musleh and Mayor Kent Guinn, with Councilman Matthew Wardell as a backup.

At the urging of Police Chief Greg Graham and City Attorney James Gooding, the council elected not to enact a curfew if Dorian hits the local area. Graham said it wasn’t necessary during Hurricane Irma and he didn’t think it would be needed this time, as most people did the right thing and stayed home. And Gooding said he wasn’t sure the council has the authority to put a curfew in place in the first place.

Finally, the council canceled its Tuesday, Sept. 3 meeting in anticipation of Dorian moving through the city that day and the next. The council will instead meet on three Tuesdays in a row – Sept. 17, Sept. 24 and Oct. 1.

Photos in Ocala, Florida

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