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Columbus City Council Meeting 'Rumblings'

Ron Williams

Ward 2 City Councilman Joseph Mickens called for Columbus Public Works Director Mike Pratt’s firing Tuesday night…in open session. A huge crowd was on hand at the meeting, many of which were there because of New Beginnings Full Gospel Church and its attempt to gain access to their property on Hwy 69 where they intend to build a new church.
Mickens call for Pratt’s hide was in reference to the public works department’s dumping of some leftover asphalt near Lavonne Harris’s business, Vons Exotic Hair Salon on Gardner Blvd. Mickens used the occasion to call Pratt out and call for his firing. Mickens claimed that most of the councilmen were unable to get work done in their respective wards, though it was only him and Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem doing all of the finger-pointing. When Mickens called for Pratt’s dismissal during open session, Mayor Robert Smith immediately told Mickens that it was he who was chairing the meeting, and “we’re not gonna do this in open session.”
During earlier discussion, Mayor Smith had claimed to know about the apron that was paved alongside the Gardner Blvd roadside in front of the business, but had no knowledge of the leftover asphalt that was dumped nearby in which Harris used to make a thin, broken-up driveway on her property. (His “no-knowledge” claim is highly doubtful. RW). Harris later came up and gave her side of the story about the event, saying she asked for the leftover asphalt and spread the material herself.

New Beginnings Full Gospel Church Rev Glenn Jefferson Sr. is on the end, front row. Next to him is Bishop Bobby L. McCarter of the Mississippi Full Gospel Baptist Church.

After laying into Pratt, Councilman Mickens received some of his own chewing-out when Ward 2 resident Hilda Fox came before the council to complain about Mickens’ lack of response to her phone calls to him. Fox claims she had called Mickens “many times” about problems in her neighborhood, including potholes behind Family Dollar near her home. She also noted that while Mickens was running for the Ward 2 seat, she had campaigned for him. When Mickens claimed that he did not receive a call from Fox that he had not returned, Fox responded, “God help me! (To lots of laughter from the crowd. RW). I’m praying for you. I’ve called you many times. And the first thing you did when you saw my name on this agenda was call me and ask me how you could accommodate me. So, why would you call me then?” When Mickens claimed that he wasn’t getting reports from problems in the neighborhoods (in reference to Mike Pratt. RW), Fox said, “Well, you could come through the neighborhood.”
Later during closed determination, the council took up the matter involving Pratt. (The media is not allowed in executive sessions. RW) After only about 5 minutes into the closed determination, Councilman Karriem came out of the meeting by himself mumbling about, “this is some bull****” and stepped outside. (This indicated to me things weren’t going his way, obviously. RW). Mayor Robert Smith and Councilman Mickens’ voices could clearly be heard screaming at one another. When it was all said and done and the media was allowed to return to the open meeting, City Attorney Jeff Turnage said that no action was taken on the matter.
Mike Pratt should not have dumped the excess asphalt for Harris to use. During his rant, Mickens had a valid point about all the potholes that need filling around Columbus, but he used that reference in his march to have Pratt dismissed. Mickens also disrespected a department head by calling for his firing during open session. While at times I applaud Mickens for his forthrightness, he was totally out of order in this case. Out of order and out of line. Pratt’s small mishap didn’t nearly warrant all the venom that was being spewed on this particular evening. There have been more than one occassion where Councilman Mickens has voted to play into the hearts and minds of his constituents, not because he was voting his convictions. Mike Pratt has done an admirable job since taking over as public works director in 2008. Similar to Police Chief Selvain McQueen, he has a tough job trying to make sure he does his job to please everyone, while walking the political tightrope of trying to pleasing 6 councilmen and a controlling mayor.
Let Pratt do his job and quit with the micro-managing.

Facebook Watch Barn Raising Benefit at The Junction Sunday

This coming Sunday, March 25th, there will be a benefit at The Junction, 4987 Hwy 182 East in Columbus, to help raise money for local Sand Road farmer Jimmy Craddieth, who lost his barn, tractor and other equipment to a fire that moved over unto his property a few weeks ago. US postal worker Rebecca Garner Swain was delivering mail on her route back on March 6th when she came upon the fire. She and others helplessly watched as Craddieth lost all his farming belongings. Swain later posted the incident on Columbus, Ms Facebook Watch and that post started a firestorm of members wanting to do something to help Craddieth get back on his feet. Sharee Karg, a longtime local emergency responder, then used ‘Divine intervention’ to post an idea about a “Barn-Raising” event for Craddieth.
The event will start at 11:00 a.m. Sunday and last until. Donations will be taken at the door. Kenneth Montgomery will be cooking and providing food and also karaoke. The Junction has a stage with bigscreens for willing participants who would like to sing songs to help raise money for Craddieth. There will also be a silent auction on donated items, as well as a bake sale. If you would like to donate items for the silent auction, please bring those items the day of the benefit.
Fun is guaranteed for all, and it’s for a very worthy cause. For more info, look for the Facebook Watch Barn Raising on Facebook or you can call The Junction at 662-244-6396.

Bo Jarrett vs
The Sheriff’s Department

During the March 15th Lowndes County Board of Supervisors meeting, Financial Officer Dave Basinger announced that the county had received a bid of $1,186 on a wrecked 2004 Crown Vic that had been a sheriff’s department vehicle. The supervisors accepted the bid. I later learned that Bo Jarrett, of Jarrett’s Towing, had hit the sheriff’s department with a tow and storage bill of $1600 involving the same Crown Vic. Reportedly, Jarrett is upset over the rotation system used involving the many towing and storage companies used by the sheriff’s department. He also, reportedly, threatened to go back and charge the sheriff’s department for towing and storage of other vehicles he had previously not charged for. I had also heard that there was a heated discussion and a exchange of words between Jarrett and Chief Deputy Marc Miley over the situation.
I contacted Bo Jarrett Wednesday to get his version of story. He said he didn’t want to talk about it right now but stated, “the power just got lit, but they haven’t put the gas to it yet.” He did indicate there was “more to come” on the matter.
I also spoke with Marc Miley. Miley said that since he was pretty new to the job, he’d refer me to County Administrator Ralph Billingsley or Dave Basinger. Billingsley was hoping that cooler heads would prevail in the long run.
A source close to the sheriff’s department said that Jarrett’s actions was due to “retaliation.”

Ron Williams can be reached by email at Ronsings2you@aol.com

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