By David A. Farrell, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
On Tuesday, Pearl River County supervisors named Fred Aubrey of Lake Hillsdale to fill an empty position on the seven-member Pearl River County Utility Authority board of directors, following an extended conversation between supervisors and PRCUA board president Tommy Breland, during which the dreaded words “north and south” were mentioned.
Breland and supervisors board president J. Patrick Lee immediately put that to rest. Breland said PRCUA members are briefed constantly about the necessity of looking at Pearl River County as one unit, and Lee said when he fields calls, it doesn’t matter from which district they come: “I treat them all the same.” What has been called a “north-south political split” has reared its ugly head occasionally during debates and decisions made by the board.
The vote on Aubrey to fill a vacancy — caused when Steve Lawler resigned earlier this year — produced a 4-to-1 vote, when Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith voted against Aubrey’s appointment. Lawler was PRCUA’s first president and led the organization over five years in successfully installing over a half-billion-dollars in utility infrastructure throughout Pearl River County with federal funding.
Supervisors Anthony Hales, Sr., Joyce Culpepper, Lee and Dennis Dedeaux, who nominated Aubrey, voted yea.
Supervisors had planned to fill the slot at their last meeting but tabled the decision to discuss the appointment further.
Dedeaux made the motion to appoint Aubrey. His motion was seconded by Hales and then the discussion began prior to the vote.
In voting nay on the appointment, Smith told the board and Breland, “I am not against Mr. Aubrey. People, however, have been asking me for a year. Hide-A-Way has 950 homes in the development. They felt like they needed some representation on the board, and I told them I would try to get them some representation on the board and that’s what I did.”
A PRCUA board appointment has now become a prize plum. The authority oversees almost the entire utility infrastructure of the county now and has expended hundreds of millions of dollars of federal money upgrading the county’s utility infrastructure.
Mentioned as possible appointments to the vacancy at the last board of supervisors meeting, besides Aubrey, who lives in Lake Hillsdale and is the head of the property owners association there, was Wayne Freeman of Hide-A-Way Lake and Bill Burns of Rock Ranch. Michelle Boyd, a member of the Pearl River County school board, who also lives in Hide-A-Way, was also mentioned as a possible replacement for Lawyer’s spot on the board. There is no woman on the board.
Breland replied to Smith, “I respect you trying to represent your constituency, and we have tried to get someone from Hide-A-Way. We just spent $9 million in there. But we also need ‘boots on the ground’ in Lake Hillsdale and Mr. Aubrey knows that situation up there well from being involved in it.”
The board of supervisors makes four appointments to the board, Poplarville one and Picayune two for a total of seven.
In other business, the board of supervisors approved the county’s participation in a study by the Stennis Institute on how to make the Justice Court System more efficient.
The county was asked by Hancock County to participate in the study. Pearl River County will be one of five counties included in the study, and will be obligated to share some of its data with the study group.
And the board told Brenda Wells, head of the Poplarville Chamber and Dr. Adam Breerwood, head of the Rotary, that it would be willing to approve a brick-by-brick program honoring veterans on the courthouse grounds, if appropriate clearances were obtained. State approval has to be obtained before installing any proposed projects on the courthouse or its grounds.
Mayor Billy Spiers signed a prisoner contract with the county under which the City of Poplarville will pay the county $20 per prisoner per day for housing city prisoners in the Millard prison.
The supervisors then adjourned to Monday, Dec. 3.