The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors met for their end of the month meeting (as well as the end of their fiscal year 2011) Friday, September 30th, and then met again on Monday, October 3rd (they must, by law, meet on the first Monday of any given month if it isn’t a holiday).
Friday, September 30th Meeting
When discussion of the board minutes came up for the September 15th meeting, District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith wanted to clarify his abstention from voting at that meeting on the issue of the supervisors checking into whether sheriff candidate Anthony Nelson was in violation of the Hatch Act. Smith said it wasn’t noted in the minutes that his abstention vote was the result of him being a member of the Lowndes County Democratic Executive Committee, and he therefore recused himself from the discussion or vote.
The reason was added to the minutes by an approved motion and the minutes for the September 15th meeting were then approved as amended.
First up before the board was Neel-Schaffer Engineer Aaron McNeal. McNeal brought forth an update on the Stark Aerospace Development-Drainage Improvement project plans and specifications. He told the board that although they had approved the project at a previous board meeting, he was giving the supervisors an opportunity to ask any specific questions about the project. When there were no questions, board President Harry Sanders made a motion to spread the plans on the minutes. He received a second from District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks and the motion carried unanimously.
Next up before the board was LINK Vice President of Economic Development Brenda Lathan. Lathan brought a resolution (for the announced Aurora expansion which will create 250 additional jobs) to the supervisors that would authorize an execution of memorandum of understanding, which, she said, included the issuance of revenue bonds in form of a loan agreement from the Mississippi Development Authority, not to exceed 9 million dollars to defray cost of equipment, the execution of a lease agreement for the equipment and an execution of the security agreement providing the terms and security of the bonds. She asked for approval from the supervisors. A motion was made, seconded and approved in favor of the resolution.
Businessman Glenn Mast came before the supervisors to seek authorization for the Tennessee River Valley Water Management (TRVWM) District to be able to clean out Magowah Creek from the old Haggard place to the Tombigbee River. Mast said debris in the creek has caused tremendous flooding along the creekbed and said he had rented the Haggard place to farm, 2011 was his first year, and said he had 25 acres of crops completely drown-out because of the flooding along the way. The recent rain of 8 inches had caused the hardship, he explained. He said during that rain, at least 50 acres flooded, some as much as 3 feet deep. He said his farmland is at the beginning of the floodstage area and the land around the old Haggard place, in particular, the creek is silted into nothing. He explained that the creek needed to be cleaned out all the way to the Tombigbee River.
Port Authority Director John Hardy then spoke, as a citizen, saying that the citizens in the area had approved of the request to clean out the creek. District 2 Supervisor Frank Ferguson asked how long of a distance was the area needing cleaning out. Mast said he’d guess 4 or 5 miles. Mast went on to say that some of the distance had already been cleaned out by citizens.
A couple of members of the TRVWM District happened to be at the meeting for another matter. Board President Harry Sanders asked them to look into the possibility of cleaning the creek, and they said they would.
Next up was Brad Maurer of the Nature Conservatory in Jackson. Maurer was asking the board to approve the TRVWM as a working partner with his organization on a project to stabilize the eroding along the banks of the Buttahatchie River.
Maurer said his organization was awarded a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. TRVWM would be asked to do some construction work in conjunction with the project. Leroy Brooks made a motion to pass a resolution asking TRVWM to assist with the project. District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith seconded. The motion passed unanimously.
Lowndes County Coroner Greg Merchant came before the board asking for approval to hire a deputy coroner, Alecia Seymer. It was noted Seymer would be working under a fee-base only and not a salary. The board approved the request.
Tax Collector/Assessor Greg Andrews came before the board to give them an update on tax collections ahead of a state audit. Andrews said his office had started out the last fiscal year (2011) attempting to collect $57 million total (county, cities and school districts). Of that amount, Andrews said they have collected all but around $400,000, $180,000 of which is in bankruptcy, but he said his office is pursuing that as well. He was seeking approval of an amended tax roll. Harry Sanders made a motion to approve the request and was seconded by District 3 Supervisor John Holliman. The motion passed unanimously.
Andrews also asked for approval to spread upon the minutes the Insolvent list from the 2010 fiscal year for personal property and mobile homes. He said the uncollected amount of $400,000 includes the items on that list. The board approved the request.
Road Manager Ronnie Burns came before the board with a culvert replacement request for improved drainage on private property. It was noted that he’d have to include a Hold Harmless agreement (because of work on private property) which he said he’d already included the paperwork. Leroy Brooks warned that any work on private property, that Burns might want to get some before-photo’s showing the work needing to be done.
“Especially during an election year…when people see work being done on private property, the phone just starts jumping off the hook. When they call the auditors, we need to be able to substantiate with photo’s.” said Brooks.
Burns said he’d get pictures of all the ditches needing work, beforehand.
County Administrator Ralph Billingsley was next up. Billingsley had an array of items on hand, including seeking approval to continue a banner advertisement inside the Columbus High School gymnasium. The banner carries a $100 annual fee, to which the board approved. Billingsley also asked the board to approve asbestos removal from the old Extension Office and testing the old Health Department (on Military Road) for asbestos. The board approved both request.
Billingsley also brought up the fact that the 5 year contract between the county and Golden Triangle Waste Services (GTWS) was up on October 1st. He had on hand a new 5 year contract awaiting board approval. Billingsley said that the rates would remain the same (no increase) and that the only change was that if a holiday fell on a customers regular pick-up day, GTWS would pick up the garbage the following business day. Before approval, Leroy Brooks noted he had called GTWS with a problem and was met with rudeness from the GTWS staff. (I’ll expand on this subject in my column. RW).
The board approved the new contract as well as a new billing & collection contract with GTWS.
Billingsley also brought forth a proposal to reinvest the hospital fund ($30 million). The fund had been invested with Regions Bank (in a money-fund, which can be moved at anytime with no penalty, as opposed to a CD) and earning 70 basis points (which is 7 tenths of one percentage point) during the past year, said Billingsley. But, he said, Regions was only offering 15 basis points on a new 1 year CD. He said Trustmark offered 18.1 basis points on a 1-year CD. He did say that Regions offered to keep the fund in its current CD at a rate of 30 basis points (a loss of 40 basis points over the past year and would amount to an earning of 3 tenths of 1 percent) which would amount to the $30 million fund only earning $90,000 over one year.
Billingsley told the board that he’d investigated and that the law allows the county to invest the fund in various money-market accounts, such as U.S. bonds, Mississippi bonds, county, school board, municipal bonds etc. He cited that Coahoma County has $40 million and was considering investing opportunities as well. Billingsley asked for approval of a committee including himself, county attorney Tim Hudson, Harry Sanders and CFO Dave Basinger to discuss the opportunities, possibly on Monday. Leroy Brooks wanted to be sure that the committee look at it, but not execute any documents from their findings before bringing proposals back to the full board of supervisors.
Harry Sanders suggested adding Bill Brigham (incoming District 2 supervisor) to the committee (because of his longtime banking experience, obviously) and the board did so.
(District 5 Supervisor candidate Roger Larsen had some heated discussion with Billingsley after the meeting was over with, over what was being discussed in exploring oppotunities to investing the money. I’ll expand on that discussion in my column as well. RW)
Harry Sanders informed the board that he and Columbus Mayor Robert Smith had (finally) agreed on a 9th and final Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau board member, Harvey Myrick. To which District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith commented, “Harry…I’d appreciate it if you’d inform us beforehand so I could hear it from someone other than the newspaper.”
Sanders agreed but told Smith that Myrick was apparently the one who told the paper (Dispatch). (The CCVB board had met last week, before the supervisors, obviously, and Myrick was sworn in at that meeting. Packet Publisher Colin Krieger attended and reported on the meeting in last week’s Packet. RW).
Brooks asked if Myrick’s appointment would be a conflict because Myrick’s Grillin’ On The River receives money from the CCVB. Sanders said Myrick had agreed to recuse himself from any discussion or votes thereof while serving on the board that dealt with Grillin’. (I’ll expand on this topic, as well, in my column. RW)
The board recessed until Monday, October 3rd.
Monday, October 3rd Meeting
The Monday meeting was a short one because a majority of the county business was taken care of in the Friday, September 30th meeting.
Bishop Kelvin Melzar gave the Invocation and introduced himself. He serves as Bishop for the Greater Life MB Church.
Ralph Billingsley announced that Earl Weeks was the only applicant for the Railroad Authority Board. John Holliman made a motion to appoint Weeks and the rest of the board approved.
Brooks brought up discussion about the Parks and Rec construction of the Sim Scott Recreation Center. Brooks voiced his frustration over the slow progress noting that construction had been going on for months with little to no progress since. Sanders pointed out that the county rec centers had been completed because the county agreed to funding. Sims Scott Rec Center is being funded by the city of Columbus.
The board recessed until the next scheduled board meeting on October 14th at 9 a.m.