Pearl River County School Superintendent’s Offices in Bad Shape

Published 7:34 pm Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The office buildings of the Pearl River County Superintendent of Schools remain unusable due to the severe damage they received from Hurricane Katrina and deterioration that has occurred since then.

Monday, Superintendent Dennis Penton said the buildings on U.S. 11 received some damage during Hurricane Katrina, but a lot of the damage has occurred due to the buildings just sitting open. The buildings have had no work done since the storm, and the lack of attention shows. A look inside the buildings reveals mold and mildew growing on the walls and ceilings, the ceilings themselves falling in, and water standing in the floors.

Penton said one of the buildings floods every time it rains. The other building had relatively minimal damage from the storm itself, but most of the damage to the second building has occurred since the storm because of leaks in the roofs.

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Penton had been trying to get funding for more office buildings since before Katrina, he says, because the buildings they occupied did not provide adequate space. After the storm, the need for new buildings increased.

Penton said immediately following the storm, the district continued to occupy the less-damaged building for a time and rented another building next door. About a year after the storm, they received trailers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and have been occupying those trailers since then.

Penton addressed the county Board of Supervisors again last week regarding the condition of the buildings. At that meeting, Penton was told there are bids out on the buildings in question and those bids should be in this week. However, if the bids are to repair the buildings, Penton fears that the buildings may be beyond repair.

Penton said this was either the sixth or seventh time he has gone before the board asking for help, but no suitable solution has been found yet. Penton remains optimistic, however, saying he believes the board will do their part to help.

The board decided last week to ask the attorney general’s office to define what functions are part of the superintendent’s office, and how much the county is responsible for providing for those functions. Penton says the office of superintendent includes any employees and offices needed to carry out the day-to-day operations of the superintendent. Penton says the board’s responsibility includes these offices.

District I Supervisor Anthony Hales said in a phone interview Monday afternoon that the board has prepared a letter to the attorney general, but at press time the letter had not been sent. Hales said the board just wants to know what the county should cover.

It was Hales’ opinion at the meeting last week that the board of supervisors is responsible only for providing an actual office for the superintendent himself, not a suite of offices for all the employees that fall under the office of superintendent.

Another question the board has posed is whether the county can help pay for buildings on school property. Penton said that in the past the board wanted to get an opinion from the attorney general on the matter, but he never heard anything back about it.

Hales said he believes the county can help with buildings anywhere in the county but was not certain what the law says about the matter.