Board of Supervisors approached by group over county offices

Published 4:44 pm Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bob Applewhite of Poplarville on Monday addressed the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors on behalf of several citizens with concerns that county offices are being moved out of the county seat to Millard, Carriere and Picayune.

Applewhite acknowledged that Hurricane Katrina damaged many county offices, and said his group had come before the board because they felt so many facilities had moved out of Poplarville.

“We know that you (the board) are the only ones that can do anything at this time. The question is, will you please continue to repair the courthouse and the old hospital until they are completed and maintained and then please fully utilize all county owned buildings in Poplarville?” Applewhite said.

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Applewhite said his group had circulated between 16 and 18 petitions across the county that already have amassed approximately 80 signatures each regarding this situation, but that the group would not bring the petitions to the board until after elections. However, the group asked the supervisors to sign a statement agreeing to leave the county offices in the city of Poplarville.

District II Supervisor Danny Wise said he would like to see a new courthouse building built in the City of Poplarville, and said that the old hospital building, which currently houses some county offices, is in need of repair and that the cost of repairing the hospital to a decent condition would be high.

“The need for increased county office space is very essential,” Wise said. “The courthouse is a grand building, but it’s not big enough for what the county needs for office space.”

District I Supervisor Anthony Hales said that the county had satellite offices in the Chimney Square Building in Picayune since 1991.

“Chimney Square had offices for taxes, Justice Court clerks, the Department of Human Services, the Sheriff’s Office. … There were several things housed in that building,” Hales said.

After Katrina, FEMA trailers in Millard housed the offices that were previously in Chimney Square, and it was the decision of the DHS director to permanently move their office to Millard, Hales said. The Justice Court also decided to move to Millard because it was more centrally located, Hales said.

Hales said he has no problem with petitions but that he wanted to be sure the people circulating the petitions were honest about the reason for them.

“Some people took this petition … saying that the Board of Supervisors is trying to move the courthouse to the City of Picayune. That is just not true. That is the furthest thing from the truth,” Hales said.

District III Supervisor Larry Davis agreed, and said the petition had upset him as well.

“People know how I feel. This county is outgrowing these facilities we have. … When it comes down to it, we have to stop, as a board, and see what works for Pearl River County,” said Davis.

Hales would not sign the statement sought by the group, saying, “I think that in my years of service, I have tried to do these things and I feel like my word ought to be enough. I don’t feel like I should have to sign a piece of paper to keep my word that I am going to do a job that I was elected to do.”

Members of the Pearl River County neighborhood watch asked the board of supervisors several questions about leash laws and the drug problem in the county.

Gayenell Stockstill, one of the neighborhood watch members, told the board the group is trying to establish a countywide watch, and would like to see county neighborhoods become crime-free.

District IV Supervisor Robert Thigpen said the problem is with enforcement of the leash law, is “As soon as someone calls the deputy, they (the owners) go put their dogs on a chain,” Thigpen said.

Sheriff Joe Stuart said he has three investigators assigned to the narcotics division to handle drug problems.

“We’re getting more complaints, and more activity,” said Stuart.

Hales said he also has seen things develop in his neighborhood. “You’re not the only community that’s having problems. There is an attitude of ‘I’m not gonna get involved,’ but everyone knows their own community,” Hales said.

The board authorized board president Bettye Stockstill to sign the agreement to begin the repairs on the Pearl River County Superintendent of Education’s office building in Carriere.

Hales mentioned that Superintendent Dennis Penton, who was not at the meeting, wants a new building, instead of having the old building repaired.

Thigpen said he would like to repair the building with the FEMA and insurance money provided and sell it, then give the district the money from the sale of the building to the superintendent’s office so it can build a new building on school property.

Hales disagreed, saying that option is not provided for in the state law. “If we built them a new building on their property, which I don’t think we can do, then we would be obligated to build another building for a new superintendent if he wanted it,” Hales said. “We are only required to provide an office for him to perform his duties, and if we repair this building, we have done that. I say fix it up to the best we can, and it’s up to him whether to accept it or not. I’m not going to vote to fix it up just to sell it.”

“Even if we don’t sell it, we’ve still got to fix the building,” said Stockstill.

Wise made the motion to go ahead with the contract to repair the building, but did include selling the building as part of his motion.

In other business, the board:

— Authorized president to execute grant modification #1 for the illegal dump site cleanup.

— Authorized president to execute waste tire grant application.

— Authorized board president to sign request for payment of repetitive flood claim grant program form.

— Authorized change order for a net change of approximately $16,000 to current bridge repair contract to include bridge on Burgetown Road.

The board recessed until Friday, July 27 at 9 a.m. due to state aid project bids.