Board asked by Picayune Chamber to reconsider decision

Published 6:09 pm Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Greater Picayune Area Chamber of Commerce came before the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors on Monday to request that the board reconsider their decision not to fund a specific economic development organization.

The board had decided at the budget hearing two weeks ago to consolidate economic development funds into one account instead of dividing the funds between the Picayune and Poplarville Chambers of Commerce and the Partners for Pearl River County.

Linda Hanberry, president of the Picayune Chamber of Commerce, and Gina Burgess, its executive director, told the board that the Chamber is not only for the city of Picayune, but for the greater Picayune area, which includes the county.

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“We feel like we give as much service to the county as we do to the Picayune area. We have done a lot with our prior funding. We try to support the county, and we would like for the county to support us,” Hanberry said.

“It was not our intention to not fund the (Picayune) chamber. Our intentions were to try to get Partners for Pearl River County, the Picayune Chamber, and the Poplarville Chamber to unite to serve the entire county,” said District II Supervisor Danny Wise.

District V Supervisor and board president Bettye Stockstill said the funding has been set aside for economic development in the county, but that the board wanted to see the three groups work together as one unified group.

“What we need is a coordinated effort. When I say coordinated effort, I mean have all the money in one pot. You tell me who to contact, and I’ll set up the meeting,” Stockstill said.

“Pearl River County is Pearl River County. And my feelings are that the money shouldn’t stop at the city limits of Poplarville or the city limits of Picayune. It has always been my thoughts that if it happens anywhere in PRC, it is good for the county. The funding is there. The money is there. We just hope that somebody can get together and learn how to use it and work together,” said District I Supervisor Anthony Hales.

District IV Supervisor Robert Thigpen raised the question of whether the Chamber would still receive the money if they were unable to work with the other two groups.

“If you have a group that’s trying to work together, are you going to penalize them if they can’t find someone else to be active?” Thigpen asked. “We don’t know what’s going to happen with the next board. We’ve tried everything in the world to bring economic development in (to the county). I would like to make sure that there is some money in there for the Picayune Chamber, because these people are really trying to do something.”

“We can’t change that we’re the Picayune Chamber of Commerce, but we are for the county. We can’t do it on our own, though, so if you’ll guide us in a direction, we’ll do it,” Hanberry said.

“I would like to think that we could have one organization that represents the entire county,” Wise said.

“As far as this board is concerned, there will be funding, and I will see to it that you get it. If this does not work, you will still get your funding,” Hales said.

“We are excited about the opportunity to work in a ‘one county, one mind’ direction,” Burgess said.

Tommy Breland of the Pearl River County Utility Authority spoke on behalf of developer Jimmy Lang about a subdivision, called Old Mill Landing, off of Old Kiln Road, near Old Mill Landing. The original plans for the subdivision were for a subdivision with 20,000 square-foot lots, and the developer has decided now to reduce the lot size to 10,000-plus square feet lots. Breland said the developer is asking for a variance on the curb and gutter requirement on lots that are smaller than 20,000 square feet.

“I know asking for variances this day and time are hard to do. We’re trying to get in something a little bit more affordable, in the $100,000-$150,000 range, rather than in the $200,000-$250,000 range,” Breland said. “We want to change the size of the lots without putting in curbs and gutters.”

Thigpen said the entire area already has a drainage problem.

“The whole area does not drain well. We need some engineering on how much water is going to be in there,” Thigpen said.

Brooks Wallace of Dungan Engineering said the developer received approval from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality on 20,000 square foot lots, and will need to obtain new approval from MDEQ if they want to change the lot size.

“DEQ requires 10,000 square feet per lot of developed area. If they half the lot sizes, they will have to increase the size of the retention pond,” Wallace said.

“I think the best thing to do is to sit down with the engineers and come up with a recommendation and come back to the board,” said Harold Holmes, County Planning and Development Director

Brian Jerman and Laceine Mason of Assura out of Indianapolis told the board they are with a private adjusting firm out of Indianapolis which is in the state to assist private citizens with any insurance claims they may still have pending from Hurricane Katrina.

“What the state has done is start this mediation program, and we go in and go back and forth with the insurance company until we come up with a settlement for homeowners,” Mason said.

“We come in retroactively, document the loss, and determine the highest possible dollar value owed to the homeowner,” Jerman said.

Jerman and Mason said they have set up an operations base in Poplarville and Picayune, and were informing the board of their services, not asking for any help.

Deborah Fancher of Specialized Management Services returned to provide the board with a proposal to handle all Justice Court collections. SMS has been providing mobile home collections services for Pearl River County for the past seven years, and has provided Justice Court collections for Jasper and Lauderdale counties since 1999.

The board tabled the discussion about SMS until executive session, and no decisions were made.

In other business, the board:

— Authorized payment of county extension dues to Billy Joe Lee and Meagan Scott.

— Authorized President to sign CDBG Sub Grant Signature Agreement – $400,000 for DHS Building.

— Authorized President to sign order establishing Project Fund of Project No. SAP-55(10)M. Started with $1million, down to $655,400. Old Kiln road overlay.

— Approved request for quotes to remove oak trees on U.S. 11 and on Johnny Johnson Road.

The board recessed until 9 a.m. Monday, Oct. 9.