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Holding mental patients in county jail again comes before supervisors

Holding of mental patients in the county jail came before Pearl River County Board of Supervisors again Tuesday.

County resident Archie Wheat brought his concerns on the subject to the board because his daughter is in need of mental health care and medication. He is concerned that while she sits in the jail awaiting that medical attention she is not getting the proper dose of her medication and the proper medical care in the jail she could get at the Gulf Coast Mental Health Crisis Center.

“These folks didn’t bring these things on themselves,” Wheat said about the mental patients. “They’re being held here without medication for months.”

Wheat said mental patients should be held in the Crisis Center where they can receive immediate care, instead of waiting in the jail for months. He said the Crisis Center could admit a patient and have them treated within three weeks. Assistant Chief Deputy Julie Flowers said that most mental and drug and alcohol patients wait an average of 70 days in the jail before they receive treatment at Mississippi State Hospital in Whitfield.

Wheat insisted that the matter at hand requires immediate attention, even before some other projects in the county.

“We have a more critical, urgent need than a ballfield,” he said.

County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin said he is in the process of researching how many Pearl River County patients can be admitted to the Crisis Center at a time.

District I Supervisor Anthony Hales said he is concerned a problem could arise concerning which patients are selected to go to the Crisis Center and which ones are not.

Lumpkin said the Crisis Center will not admit drug and alcohol patients, only mental patients.

Board president Danny Wise said that the board will take Wheat’s concerns into consideration, but the budget is already going to be tight.

The board learned the county needs to consider water conservation. Mike Davis and Jimmy Baldwin of Pearl River Basin Development District informed the board that the Miocene aquifer water supply, Pearl River County’s main water supply, dropped slightly faster than it had been before Hurricane Katrina. Baldwin said there is no immediate danger of water shortages, but conservation is key.

Baldwin said it takes years for an aquifer to replenish what’s drawn from it because the water needs to percolate through layers of ground sediment.

“The water we’re probably drinking today fell about three to four hundred years ago, probably 500 (years),” Baldwin said.

Pearl River County’s aquifer is fed from the area of Lamar and Stone counties, Baldwin said.

The larger than average drop in the aquifer could be attributed to an increase in usage, broken lines, increased population and or fewer trees to help the water absorb into the ground, Baldwin said. No board action was taken on the matter.

On another topic, Lumpkin asked the board about applying for funding to help clean clogged county creeks of debris. He said that St. Tammany and Washington parishes are using helicopters to remove debris from their creeks.

Mike Davis said he will talk with Natural Resource Conservation and the Corps of Engineers to see if they can offer some assistance on the matter.

A concerned local electrician addressed his concerns about the newly adopted building codes because he does not have time to take the certification test. Kevin Odom has an air-conditioning and electrician business in the county and wants to be grandfathered in as certified since he has been doing work in the county for about 15 years, he said. His wife works for a lawyer in Hattiesburg and according to the research she did on the matter, Odom said he should be grandfathered in, and not have to take a test to become certified. When the board asked him why he could not just take the test to become certified he said he has about 90 houses scheduled to work on and cannot free up the time to take the test. The board requested that board attorney Nova Carroll look into the matter.

A statement in an earlier board meeting story stated that the jail would require about $2 million to operate. Actually, Sheriff Joe Stuart said that the jail may generate about $2 million in the next fiscal year.

An update on the removal of dead and dying trees reveals that of the 1,350 approved site, 800 sites have been picked up, leaving about 550 sites left to clean, said Brooks Wallace of Dungan Engineering. Crews are averaging about 60 to 70 trees per day, but at that rate the clean up will not be done in time for the Aug. 28 federal funding deadline, he said.

“They need to pick up the pace if they are going to finish by that time,” Les Dungan of Dungan Engineering said.

The board went into executive session on pending litigation with Pearl River County School District Superintendent Dennis Penton and went into executive session for pending litigation and personnel matters. No action was taken in the first executive session. After the second executive session, the board signed a new Adolescent Offender Program Grant.

In other matters, the baord:

— Approved Dungan Engineering to conduct a traffic count at the intersection of Rock Ranch Road and McNeill-Henleyfield Road to determine if they can get a warrant to set a three way stop.

— Approved Dungan Engineering to survey Ed Reid Road and Hickory Grove for realignment.

— Approved a quit claim to Armond P. Guizeriux on a piece of land between Home Depot and a plot of land owned by Guizeriux contingent upon no legal ramifications from Home Depot.

— Acknowledged receipt of bids for county fairgrounds arena bleachers and approved accepting the base bid from the lowest bidder, Kanduit Construction, provided the board gets an acceptable response on federal funding to add to the insurance payment they have already received for the bleachers.

— Made a letter from Haley Barbour concerning Katrina Supplemental Public Facilities Code Enforcement funds part of the minutes.

— Approved payment to Picayune Relay for Life for May 6, 2006.

— Approved taking into consideration a proposal by Fox Everett Insurance to handle county insurance needs and schedule a meeting with the board’s current insurance broker to give them a chance to give their presentation next week.

The next meeting of the board of supervisors will be 9 a.m. Monday Aug. 28.