Big changes in county employees, Chimney Square bids top Supervisors’ meeting

Published 6:08 pm Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The new Pearl River County Board of Supervisors met for the first time on Monday to address issues such as rehiring county employees, accepting bids on several projects and advertising for bids for the Chimney Square project.

The board opened business by electing District I Supervisor Anthony Hales as board president and District IV Supervisor Patrick Lee as board vice-president. The board then approved the bonds of all elected and appointed officials before retiring for a brief executive session to discuss the list of county employees to be rehired. At the first of each year, county employees are terminated, subject to rehiring by the board of supervisors.

Once the board returned from executive session, Lee made a motion to approve the list of employees to be rehired, with District V Supervisor Sandy Smith seconding. The motion passed with four votes. Anthony Hales voted against accepting the list.

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Among those county employees who were not rehired, the most noticeable ones were Justice Court Clerk Janet “Sissy” Miller, Emergency Operations Director Bobby Strahan, Planning and Development Director Harold Holmes and all Planning and Development staff with the exception of the secretary.

Debby Amacker replaced Miller, Danny Manley replaced Strahan, and Picayune City Manager Ed Pinero was hired to replace Holmes.

Board attorneys Buddy McDonald and Gerald Patch also were replaced by attorney Joe Montgomery from Poplarville.

The board also voided the county’s contract with Benchmark Construction.

“There are serious questions about the legality of that contract, and the board wishes to cancel that contract with Benchmark,” Montgomery said.

A motion was made and passed unanimously to treat the contract as null and void.

Joe Stuart, former sheriff and now an investigator with the district attorney’s office, asked the board to consider increasing the amount allotted to renovate the yellow building behind the courthouse. Stuart said the board has previously authorized around $8,000, which included window air-conditioning units for each window. However, after review, Stuart said two split units were being considered for the building, one for each floor.

Smith made a motion to table the request until the board could examine the building. After lunch, Smith said he and Holliday had looked at the building, and thought a central system would be more beneficial.

“I have some concerns about the split system,” Smith said.

County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin said Smith had recommended several people that could give quotes on a new central system. Smith owns an air conditioning installation and repair company. The board left the issue tabled until quotes could be obtained on central systems.

Chief Building Inspector Kirk Pichon presented his monthly and annual reports, which showed the total fees taken in for the month and year. Pichon said the month of December was a large month, with 180 permits issued for a total of $18,523 in fees collected. Pichon said subdivision fees were also collected.

Holliday asked Pichon if he could also provide a total amount on what the department spent. Pichon said he did not have those numbers readily available, but could obtain them for Holliday.

Hales pointed out that up until this point, the building department has been operating under a 75 percent reimbursement grant, which may or may not continue.

“If we continue to operate this department and don’t continue on the grant and don’t get these fees, that money will be coming out of the general fund. The department will end up being funded by all taxpayers,” Hales said.

Holliday also asked the board to consider postponing acceptance of the bids for the Chimney Square building in Picayune.

“We just got the changed plans in. I have looked through them. I don’t want to jerk these contractors around. If we go ahead and advertise for these bids, and then if we are not ready, we won’t get these bids. I would like to make a motion that we temporarily suspend bid openings on this project until we have had the chance to review plans and know what we are doing,” Holliday said. “I’m not trying to stall the building down there. I’m just doing this on a business basis.”

The question was raised as to whether the bids had already been advertised, so the issue was tabled until after the recess.

Upon returning, Lumpkin said that the order was entered to reissue bids, but no time frame had been set.

Montgomery recommended the board meet with FEMA and MEMA once they have the final plans to see what can be done with the funds, then to meet with the architect for any final revisions.

Lumpkin told the board he had met with MEMA on Friday and that the county will be moving forward with the Mississippi Cottage program. Meetings will be held Jan. 21 and 22 at Roseland Park Baptist Church in Picayune from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. A third meeting will be held Jan. 24 at First Baptist Church in Poplarville, also from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m.

Lumpkin said staff would be on-hand to answer questions about the program.

The board instructed the clerk to defer advertising for bids until such time as all meetings were completed.

In other business, the board:

— Accepted proposals from engineering and architectural services for safety shelters.

— Acknowledged on-going grants in the Emergency Management department: 100 percent reimbursement siren grant of $143,629, phase 2 generator grant of $1,351,238, and a shelter construction allocation of $8.91 million.

— Accepted and awarded bids on the new trusty dormitory at the Pearl River County Jail, pending review by county administrator and engineers.

— Accepted and awarded bids on two State Aid road projects. On both projects, the low bidder was T. L. Wallace Construction of Columbia.

The board recessed until 9 a.m. Monday, Jan. 14.