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Smith, Board at Odds Over District 4 Projects

jeff.clark@test.columbuspacket.com/packet

Twitter @thejeffclark

 

After getting two resolutions passed unanimously by the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors, District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith expressed his frustration with the board over his request for some ditch work and the removal of a building in the Town of Crawford during Monday’s regularly scheduled meeting.

Smith successfully asked for a resolution authorizing Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District to do some ditch work on Highway 69 and Yorkville Road as well as a resolution to have some ditch work done on Hotel Street in Crawford.

Smith’s request for an inter-local agreement for some between Lowndes County and Crawford was met with some hesitation from other board members, including District 1 Supervisor and Board President Harry Sanders. Smith said there are eight roads in Crawford that have water lines running under the roads or in nearby shallow ditches.

“This request is for informational purposes only,” Smith said. “I’m trying to improve quality of life in my district. This is causing poor drainage. It’s affecting the property owners because we can’t lower the ditches. I’ve talked to Kevin Stafford, the engineer for the Town of Crawford, and (County Engineer Bob Calvert) about seeking some grant money to remove those water lines and have them moved to the back sides of the ditches so we can eventually pave those roads. It’s a quality of life issue. I’m asking this board to support me as I move forward with the Town of Crawford and their board to ask for an inter-local agreement that will allow us to work hand-in-hand with that town and it will allow us to be the lead agency where we go out and do the due diligence. We want to ensure Crawford they are involved with this plan. I can’t be effective in working with a community when we have ditches that are so shallow you can the waterlines on top of the roads.”

Smith said his interest in the project is two-fold in that it protects the taxpayers of the county and provides for a better quality of life for Crawford residents. But when he asked the county to be the lead on the project, Sanders said there may be some other options available.

“I got something in the mail from (Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality) listing what you are talking about that could qualify for grants,” Sanders said. “I think the deadline is the end of May to apply. You may look at those to see what’s available. These grants are for small municipalities and I don’t know if the county can act as the lead. It’s for small rural municipalities. Let’s look into these things and see what’s available.”

Smith agreed to Sanders’ request and said he would provide more information at a later date.

During his final request before the board, Smith said he had received a letter from Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority Director Roger Short regarding the removal of the old Crawford school building. According to Smith, the removal of the school was part of the county’s comprehensive plan but it was never completed.

“I’ve had complaints from some citizens saying the building is being used for illicit activities and it’s creating an unsafe environment for the community and people want it gone,” Smith said. “According to Mr. Short, the building has asbestos that will need to be reomoved before the building can be torn down. Short had some money left over from the capital improvements budget that could have been spent to remove these asbestos and do this project. But the money was redirected to do some other projects. His budget would have to be amended to reflect the asbestos removal which is $34,000. As far as demolition, the county road department could tear the building down. It would minimize costs. It’s a project we’ve never completed. It’s like a lot of projects in my district that haven’t been completed.”

Smith said on top of the $34,000 for asbestos removal, Smith said it would cost an additional $39,000 to demolish and remove the building, which is owned by CLRA.

“Do you still have a copy of the comprehensive plan,” Sanders asked. “In the plan, a $100,000 was going to go to buy some property in Caledonia for a soccer complex but Caledonia didn’t want it so we gave to CLRA to build a community center. I don’t think there’s anything in the comprehensive plan about tearing down that building. The community center in Crawford wasn’t even in the plan, it was an additional thing.”

Smith said demolishing the building was part of the comprehensive plan as well as building a new community center.

“Half of this project has been completed, which was the building of a new community center,” Smith said. “All I’m asking the board to do is finish the project by demolishing the building. I want the board’s support. I’m not here to argue. We should all be concerned about safety and liability. It’s our responsibility to carry the big purse and do this.”

District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks suggested County Administrator Ralph Billingsley look at the budget to see if there is money to do this. Brooks also said the work could be done in two phases — the asbestos removal phase in the  current year’s budget and the removal in upcoming 2014 budget.

The subject was tabled until a later date. Smith said Road Manager Ronnie Burns is going to look at the building and the county is going to examine additional bids on the demolition and removal.

Other board actions:

  • County Fire Administrator Sammy Fondren is pursuing additional property for a new District 1 Fire Station.
  • Brislin Inc. was given a 10-year tax exemption from the county. The exemption ends Dec. 31, 2022.
  • County Purchase Clerk was approved permission to advertise for an asphalt paver and truck for the road department.
  • An AT&T utility permit was approved on Industrial Park Road at the request of County Engineer Bob Calvert.
  • East Lowndes Water Association was approved for a utility permit on Concourse Road.
  • Myrtle Jones was approved employ family leave.
  • No bids were received on the old health department on Military Road. The board is going to list the property with a realtor.
  • The board authorized the execution of trust documents for hospital funds.
  • Approval was given for District 5 Fire Board to receive a donated ambulance from Baptist Memorial Hospital Golden Triangle.
  • Approval was given for Confederate Memorial Day — April 29.
  • A resolution requested by District 3 Supervisor John Holliman to Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District to clean a ditch on Yorkville Road.

 

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