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Clay supes make 911 board appointments, discuss Strong Hill Road

December 22 marked the last Clay County Board of Supervisors meeting for longtime Sheriff Laddie Huffman, who is retiring at the end of the month. The board recognized his years of service at the beginning of the meeting: left to right, District 4 Supervisor Shelton Deanes; District 3 Supervisor Luke Lummus; District 1 Supervisor Lynn Horton; Huffman; District 3 Supervisor RB Davis; Chancery Clerk Robbie Robinson; District 5 Supervisor Floyd McKee; and County Attorney Tom Storey.

At their last meeting of 2011, the Clay County Board of Supervisors handled 911 board appointments, considered accepting a county road and briefly discussed digging graves for pauper burials.

The supervisors made five appointments to the 911 board. Clay County Sheriff Laddie Huffman and West Point Police Department Assistant Chief Bobby Lane, who was put on the board while interim police chief, are both retiring at the end of this calendar year, and both came off of the 911 board. In addition, the terms of Coroner Alvin Carter, Chancery Clerk Robbie Robinson and Larry Barton expired.
The board appointed West Point Police Chief Tim Brinkley to replace Lane; incoming sheriff Eddie Scott to replace Huffman; and reappointed Carter, Robinson and Barton. [Although Mr. Robinson did not seek re-election and is retiring at the end of this month, the supervisors asked that he remain on the board. – Brian Jones] District 2 Supervisor Luke Lummus made the motion to appoint Scott; District 1 Supervisor Lynn Horton asked to appoint Brinkley; District 4 Supervisor Shelton Deanes asked to reappoint Carter; and District 3 Supervisor RB Davis made the motion to reappoint Robinson and Barton.
All of the appointments were approved unanimously.

The board discussed accepting Strong Hill Road as an official county road. The section of road, which is less than a mile long, passes through property owned by Strong Hill Baptist Church. Due to a construction project on church property, the church asked that the county abandon the pre-existing section of road; they then built a new section of road up to county specifications and now wish to donate it to the county as a replacement. The new section of road goes around the church site; all the surrounding land is owned by the church.
Before the road could be accepted, the supervisors asked that the church prepare a deed that could then be turned over to the county. The church presented a deed at Thursday’s meeting, but County Attorney Tom Storey stated that the deed was improperly conveyed.
When the matter came up Thursday, Horton made a motion to accept the road and was seconded by Deanes.
“We’ve done our inspection on that road,” Horton said. “It looks to be in order and I’d like to make it a county road.”
“We’ve got a deed that’s already been recorded by the church to the board of supervisors,” Robinson said.
“This is the first time I’ve seen this deed,” Storey said. “It’s signed by the chairman of the deacons of Strong Hill Baptist Church. I don’t think this is an appropriate deed. They only way they can convey land is through their board of trustees. Until they do that, I don’t think this deed is appropriate. This is a Baptist church, not a national church. The board of deacons has no official standing under Mississippi law. The statute says any document signed by a Baptist church must be done by the trustees…all the trustees. And they can’t do it without the approval of the congregation.”
County Drug Court Coordinator Edward Houston, who is a deacon at Strong Hill, was present at the meeting and explained that the church didn’t have trustees.
“We don’t have a board of trustees, we only have deacons,” Houston said. “The congregation has already approved this.”
“Well, you need to appoint some,” Storey said. “If you don’t have trustees, you can’t own property. By law any independent church has to have trustees. It’s the trustees that own the land.”
Houston said the church would appoint trustees and correct the document.
Horton rescinded his motion, and no action was taken.

Davis brought up the issue of county burial of paupers.
“Whenever the county is asked to dig a grave…I think we’re being abused on this service,” he said. “Some of the people we’re doing it for are not paupers. We need to verify that they are.”
“They have to come to the courthouse and sign something verifying that they are a pauper, isn’t that right?” Lummus said.
“You have to be declared a pauper before you die,” Robinson said. “That’s the law.”
“The problem is what are you going to do with the body,” Storey said. “It becomes a health problem then. You would have to take care of that.”
“We had a true pauper here a while ago who just laid in the morgue,” Robinson said. “[Lummus] and I finally went out and buried him.”
“That was sad, it really was,” Lummus said. “It was just the two of us.”
“I think it’s a good service, but it’s being abused,” Davis said.
The board took no action.

In other business the board held two executive sessions. The first was at the beginning of the meeting and involved an economic development issue. West Point Mayor Scott Ross and Columbus-Lowndes Development Link CEO Joe Higgins, as well as several local businessmen, joined the board behind closed doors for about 50 minutes. After returning to open session and transacting business, the board held a second executive session to discuss a personnel issue.

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