By David A. Farrell, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
Mississippi Department of Transportation crews last week shut down two rest stops on Interstate 59 between Exits 6 and 15.
Also, Pearl River County last week crews began tearing down the old Pearl River County superintendent’s administrative office complex, which was damaged by Katrina seven years ago. The complex was located at the corner of Washington Street and U.S. Highway. 11 in Carriere.
A county official, Beat Five Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith, said he wants to sell the Carriere property — which has been used in the past by the Pearl River County School District but belongs to the county — and place the money in a seed fund to begin accumulating money to repair the county courthouse.
He said he was not speaking for the board of supervisors as a whole, but would offer his proposal to the board for consideration.
Concerning the rest stops, supervisors in July authorized that a board letter be sent to Southern District Highway Commissioner Tom King, requesting that the two rest stops be closed.
The board’s unanimous decision was taken after Smith complained to the board that he was receiving complaints from citizens who live near the rest stops, saying the rest areas were a nuisance. There were no bathroom facilities or security at the two rest stops. Smith represents District Five, in which the rest stops are located.
causing more problems, Smith told the board of supervisors at their July meeting.
One rest stop was for the northbound lanes between Exits 6 and 10, and the other is between Exits 15 and 10 on the southbound side. Exit 6 is the I-59 north exit at Picayune and Exit 15 is at McNeill.
The rest stop on the northbound side is at mile marker 8, and the rest stop on the southbound side at mile marker 14. MDOT crews barricaded both ends of the rest stops.
The motion to send a letter to King was made by Smith, and seconded by Supervisor Anthony Hales, Sr. Supervisors Joyce Culpepper, J. Patrick Lee and Dennis Dedeaux also voted in favor of sending the letter.
In making his motion, Smith told supervisors that there were truck stops along the same section of interstate that could accommodate truckers and motorists if the rest stops were shut down.
There’s a truck fueling stop, Keith’s, at Exit 10, which is called the Carriere Exit, and the McNeill Truck Stop at Exit 15 has a large parking area that has at times accommodated more than 30 trucks overnight. Both stops have restaurants and rest room facilities. The McNeill Truck Stop is a full-service truck stop and has a truckers’ buffet.
In addition, there is a Welcome Center on the northbound side between Nicholson and Picayune that accommodates both trucks and cars. “These rest stops are a nuisance, and really are not needed,” added Smith.
The truck stops at Exit 15 and 10 are accessible by both northbound and southbound I-59 traffic, but the Welcome Center is accessible only from the northbound lanes.
In making the proposal, Smith said complaints about the rest stops from residents living nearby were increasing.
Concerning the old superintendent’s administrative offices, Carriere school officials have in the past pointed out that state statutes require the board of supervisors to provide the Pearl River County School District with administrative offices, at the bare minimum an office for the superintendent.
Shortly after Katrina, county school board and administrative offices were moved out of the complex at Washington and U.S. Hwy. 11, and moved into temporary metal buildings on the north end of the Pearl River Central High School campus at Carriere. Katrina damaged the facilities at the complex on the highway and made them unusable.
The metal buildings are still being used. The school board met until recently in a metal building, but overcrowding forced it to move to the high school cafeteria. The superintendent and administrative offices are still housed in the metal buildings, seven years after Katrina.
Prior to the superintendent’s office being located at Carriere, the county used to pay for one in Poplarville across from the courthouse on West Pearl Street, but officials wanted it located closer to the school’s three campuses so it was moved to the Washington Street-U.S. Hwy. 11 location in Carriere. Pate Lumpkin was county superintendent when it was located in Poplarville.
Asked about the matter, current Supt. Alan Lumpkin said, “That property is owned by the county, and we really don’t have a lot of say-so in how it is used.”
He said he doesn’t see his administrative staff getting any new offices in the foreseeable future. “We just don’t have the money right now,” he said.
All five county school board members and the superintendent are elected officials. The Pearl River County school board oversees the operations of three school campuses — Carriere, McNeill and Burgetown — serving the large central rural county area between Poplarville and Picayune, which are separate municipal school districts.
Some residents get the school board and schools mixed up. The Pearl River County School Board oversees the Pearl River Central High School and Middle schools which are located on the Carriere campus and the Lower and Upper Elementary schools at McNeill, and the Alternative School at Burgetown.