Booneville aldermen have approved an ordinance banning kratom, a currently legal substance which law enforcement says mimics the effects of opioids and amphetamine.

The board also voted Tuesday to accept the resignation of the city’s municipal judge and took another step toward the next phase of downtown infrastructure improvements.

Aldermen present at Tuesday’s meeting voted unanimously to approve the ordinance banning the sale and possession of kratom. All four aldermen at the meeting voted for the ordinance. Alderman-at-Large Lisa Stevens was absent Tuesday.

The new ordinance will take affect 30 days after it is first published in this newspaper’s legal notices section, which should happen next Thursday.

Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics Capt. Tammy Reynolds told the board the naturally-derived substance is currently legal under state and federal law, but the bureau is extremely concerned about its dangers and while waiting for a state or national level ban they are asking for municipalities to take action. She said they began seeing products containing kratom sold in convenience stores in early 2018 and have determined approximately 18 overdose deaths in which kratom was present and two where it was the only pharmaceutical substance found.

“One death is one too many,” she said.

Reynolds said products containing kratom are not regulated by the Federal Drug Administration and therefore it’s impossible to know how much they contain or what other substances they might also contain. She said it’s also being sold to minors at convenience stores in the area and she wants to see it removed from the streets to reduce the risk to citizens.

A public hearing on the proposed ordinance last month drew a response from several citizens who spoke against the band, citing its potential for health benefits and pain relief when used properly. Advocates say it can serve as a natural pain reliever and provide other health benefits while acknowledging it has the potential for abuse just like any other substance.

Aldermen accepted the immediate resignation of city municipal judge Tommy Cadle on Tuesday. Cadle was not present at the meeting. Board members approved paying Prentiss County Justice Court judges Trent Moore and Kimi Kitchens to serve as part-time judges until a new municipal judge can be appointed. The board also voted to begin seeking applications for a new judge.

Funding was approved from the tourism tax fund for engineering and design services for the next phase of downtown improvements. The board approved a total of $135,225 for Cook-Coggin Engineers for the work as the city seeks a second round of grant funding for sidewalk, lighting, planting and street improvements downtown.

Matthew Estes with Cook Coggin said the next phase of the work will be similar to the central section already completed and will focus on the area from Church Street to First Street and College Street, tying in to the existing section. He explained this portion is the key connector that will then allow future phases of the longterm plan to connect to Second Street and to Northeast Mississippi Community College.

Also formally approved Tuesday was the city’s $70,000 per year commitment for three years to help fund the next phase of sidewalk and street improvements surrounding NEMCC. Half of the funds will come from the tourism tax account and half from the park department funds derived from the tourism tax. NEMCC was recently approved for grant funding for the next phase of the work which will include the busy intersection at Veterans and College streets and other areas on that side of campus.

In other business, the board:

• approved a revision to policy in the gas and water department stating no service will be reconnected after business hours for those who are cut off due to failure to pay and no services will be cut off on Fridays or holidays.

• approved beer sales licenses for El Veracruz restaurant on North Second Street and Vvdev Varahi LLC (the Dynasty convenience store) on West Chambers Drive.

• approved posting for applications for part-time and season workers including scorekeepers, concessions, umpires and maintenance workers in the park department.

• approved spending up to $15,000 from the park tourism account to purchase pitching mounds.

• approved hiring Virgil Simpson as a full-time park department employee.

• approved hiring Ricky Heavener as an in-house customer service technician in the gas and water department.

• approved seeking applications for a meter reader in the gas and water department.

• approved posting to fill a patrol sergeant position in the police department.

• approved the reappointment of Chris Murphy to the Booneville School District board.

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