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Newly Confirmed US Marshal Dennis Erby Appears Before Supervisors

The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors met Monday morning for their first meeting of April. First order of business was to hear from Dennis Erby, who was confirmed last Thursday by the senate as a US Marshall for the Mississippi Northern District based in Oxford. Erby had been nominated by President Barack Obama back in May of 2011. Erby will head the Oxford office.
Board of Supervisors President Harry Sanders, in calling Erby to the podium, said, “I want to tell you, first, how much we appreciate what all you’ve done for this county.” Erby began, “Good morning. Mr. President, first of all i’d like to honor family and country. I think it’s interesting protocol for all of us as we start to talk about this wonderful country in which we live. I come before the board this morning to express my appreciation for all the opportunities that i’ve had in this county. It is rare that we have an opportunity to see someone like myself to come from very meager beginnings, to get an opportunity to serve at the pinnacle of my career. I want to thank this board, and boards prior to this board for the support that i’ve had in this community and all the positions that i’ve had an opportunity to serve in. Most of this blows my mind…but, I told my wife I could not leave without coming and letting you-all know how much I appreciated the opportunity to have served.”
“Part of what I must do, is effectively resign my postion with the Lowndes County Port Authority (he served as a board member, RW). And that encompasses any and all other positions that I hold as a result of the appointment (as US Marshall. RW). Most of you know that I have been involved in a process to become a US Marshall for the Northern District for the state of Mississippi since around 2010. There’s 6 stages of that process. I’m on No. 4. Thursday of next week, if things hold, I should be in Washington, DC being sworn-in as your US Marshall for the Northern District. With that in mind, I would ask that you-all continue to pray that I can go and do what i’ve always tried to do, and that’s to be a professional. And to represent the state of Mississippi to the very best of my ability. So again, I say thank you for the opportunity. I have a letter for Supervisor Smith (Jeff Smith, District 4 Supervisor in which district Mr Erby had served on the Port Authority board. RW), and for Mr Sanders as president of the board, stating that my resignation is in effect as of today. Thank You.”
Harry Sanders said, “Thank you, Dennis, we appreciate your service. I’d also like to make a motion that we do a resolution honoring Dennis Erby for his tenure on the Port Authority board and for his service to the community.” Sanders asked board attorney Tim Hudson if he’d draw up the resolution to be approved at the next board meeting. District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith quickly seconded the motion and it was approved unanimously.
County Fire Administrator Sammy Fondren came before the board to ask for assistance in staking and marking the property that houses the District 2 Fire Station on Jess Lyons Road. Fondren said that the District 2 board asked for the action to see exactly how much property they possess because of expansion considerations. He named off many problems that exist at the current station and the District 2 board is looking at possibly building a new station because of them, which may require more property. He asked for a survey of the property and the board of supervisors granted one.
District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks took the opportunity to ask that Fondren and other volunteer fire chiefs sit down with the board of supervisors and make an assessment of their needs and how well they are doing. Brooks said, “One of the things that concerns me is from time to time, that, we get people burned up, unfortunately. And we (the supervisors) never get a report as to whether it was just something beyond their handling or what the problem was. And I think when people are burned up in fires, that there needs to be an assessment of whether it was because the volunteer fireman couldn’t get there in time, or the equipment, or it was just one of those situations. I don’t think we ought to just, well, somebody just got burned up. So. I think we need to make an…and again, I understand that these volunteers are just that and they are to be commended, but, the reality of it is…volunteer firemen have a contract with the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors. So, it’s incumbent upon us to make sure that they have whatever they need, within some reason, to do their job. And I think as, especially west of the river and probably some other parts of the county, as they begin to develop residentially, is that we need to go back and make an assessment. It’s hard for a guy during the day to get off from his job, run to the fire station…as we saw down in Plum Nelly. By the time, sometimes, that a guy gets from his job, drive to get a truck…and then those wood-splinter houses…I mean, you’re just going to watch them burn. And i’ve seen this personally on 3 occasions, as a matter of fact I’ve been on site where I’ve tried to help…by the time the fire truck gets there, the houses are gone.”
Brooks stressed the fact that he was not reflecting upon the fire department or being critcal in any way. He believes there needs to be periodical assessments from the Administrator, chiefs etc. to the board. As the county grows, he said, the need is not to just build the fire department, but to adequately equip and man them.
Jeff Smith said there was a man at the Plum Grove fire that was there 15-20 minutes before the fire truck arrived. He said that the man, had he been equipped with the necessary tools to help fight the fire, might have been able to assist.
Fondren noted that the Plum Grove fire was in such a rural, rural area…it was next to impossible to have someone on the scene quick enough to get it under control. Harry Sanders noted that nearly 80% of fire departments, nationwide, are manned by volunteers.
In other board action: The supervisors accepted Limestone bids for the road department. County Purchase Clerk Terry Thompson also presented equipment bids for the road department and made recommendations from Road Manager Ronnie Burns. The supervisors accepted the bids.
Heard from Tax Assessor/Collector Greg Andrews about the application (for tax exemption) of The Freeport Warehouse and New Process Steel, which is on the campus of SeverCorr. Andrews recommended passing in the amount of $1,057,107. The supervisors voted unanimously in favor of.
Heard from Glenn Lautzenhiser and Reverend Bob Wilbur (Covenant Presbyterian Church) about the planned National Day of Prayer scheduled for Thursday, May 3rd. Attorney Tim Hudson read, aloud, a resolution from the board encouraging participation for the prayer day.
Circuit Clerk Haley Salazar came before the board to announce the need to move the old Lee Middle School Voting Precinct to First Assembly Church of God next to Lowes. Salazar said that the church had offered their activity building as a voting precinct. Leroy Brooks wanted to know if there was a problem with having a precinct within a church (with consideration of the separation of church and state issues) but Salazar said it was completely legal and was common practice in other parts of the country. The precinct will be renamed First Assembly Precinct and the move will have to gain Justice Department approval.
County Administrator Ralph Billingsley named the board appointments. For the District 2 Library Board, Clara Gilmer was appointed unanimously to the 5 year term. For the District 3 Library board appointment, Douglas Blount was reappointed by a unanimous vote as well. On the District 3 Port Authority board appointment, the supervisors unanimously reappointed Randy Frederick to the position. It is a 4 year term. Frederick was renominated by District 3 Supervisor John Holliman, who also nominated Blount. District 2 Supervisor Bill Brigham nominated Gilmer for the District 2 library board position. Supervisors regularly nominate board appointees that involve their own respective districts.
The supervisors voted to send a letter to The Mississippi Department of Human Services (who owes the county $120,000 in back expenses, namely rent, covering 6 years) saying that they’d like to have a resolution to the situation by May 1st.
Tabled discussion on a proposal from District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith to amend his portion of the 4 year county road plan to include Temple Cove, which is reportedly a city road. After a lengthy discussion, with further discussion on the Hughes Road project, the matter was tabled till the next meeting.
The next scheduled board meeting will be Friday, April 13th at 9 a.m.

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