Board hears from MEMA and FEMA on Chimney Square

Published 6:18 pm Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Randy Walker of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Larry Baughman with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency answered questions for the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors on Monday about the Chimney Square Building in Picayune.

“There has been a lot of information supplied to MEMA through telephone conversations, newspaper articles and such, and instead of speculation, we want the board to explain what they feel they would like to do, what concepts you have, and then we will give back answers,” Baughman said.

District I Supervisor Anthony Hales said the biggest question the board had is what exactly the board would be allowed to replace.

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“We know what we had prior to Katrina. Since then, we’ve been trying to get something to replace that building … Our plans went from a one story building to a three story building, and some things that were housed in the original building that will no longer be there. We’re also talking of changing the location. Our question is about the funding, and will we get all our funding,” Hales said.

Walker said as long as the building has the same capacity and function, it would be considered an improved project, and that if the function of the building changed, it would be considered an alternate project.

County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin asked Walker if improved projects were paid at a reduced amount of 75 percent or if regulations had been put in place that the improved projects could be paid for at 100 percent. Walker agreed that improved projects can be funded at 100 percent.

District III Supervisor Hudson Holliday asked if the new plans proposed by the former board would be considered a function change or alternate project.

“The building that was there was around 35,000 square feet, and we’re putting that same square footage in the three-story building. The plans that we have are currently about 36,000 square feet. The functionality has changed some. The Department of Human Services, which was housed in the old building, won’t be there anymore. Courthouses have been added. Will that be considered an alternate project since the function has changed,” Holliday asked.

Walker said a function change would be if the building went from a county service building to something like a retirement home or hospital, not if some county offices were no longer in the building. Walker also said the building could be split into two separate buildings, as long as the square footage remained the same and was split between the two buildings, and a change in location would not affect the funding for the building either.

“We’ll fund the building wherever you put it. Funding will not be affected wherever,” Walker said. “All you need to do is get the conceptual design to Larry Baughman and then we can look at it and advise you if anything would be outside the scope of work of the project worksheet.”

Pearl River County Emergency Management Director Danny Manley told the board that a 4 x 4 Polaris incident response vehicle has already been purchased pursuant to a Homeland Security Grant that was obtained by former emergency management director Bobby Strahan. Manley said the vehicles were for instances where there have been accidents in deep woods that other vehicles cannot get to.

District IV Supervisor Patrick Lee asked Manley if the county was in danger of losing any grants that Strahan had pursued while he was in office.

“No, there is no danger of us losing any grants,” Manley said.

Holliday asked about a $8.9 million shelter grant that has been obtained for the county to build three emergency shelters.

MEMA representative Sage McReynolds said the shelters would be built to basic county codes, and would not have appliances or air-conditioning. The county would be required to supply the appliances, McReynolds said.

“Basically you’re saying we’re going to build three 10,000 square-foot buildings, and they won’t have any air-conditioning and very few doors. We can’t lock people in there in the middle of August or September,” Holliday said.

“We’re giving the basics for public safety. They will be safe, but not necessarily comfortable,” McReynolds said.

Holliday said he is concerned where the rest of the money for the shelter’s completion would come from.

“They’re building us a basic structure, and we’re going to be asked to complete it. I think we better have a rough idea of how much that will be,” Holliday said.

Manley pointed out that currently high school gymnasiums and churches are used as shelters, and those places receive a lot of damage that has to be repaired.

“These shelters are to avoid the damage to these churches and gymnasiums,” Manley said.

Holliday said he is not opposed to building the shelters, but just wants the county to know how much money will have to come from county funds.

Community Baptist Church on Barth Road had requested a variance from the Building Codes in order to not install a sprinkler system in a new fellowship hall the church is building.

Chief Building Inspector Kirk Pichon said the church does not have sufficient water supply to supply a sprinkler system, which is required by building codes.

“The next best thing would be to install a full-blown fire alarm system. The only other option would be to put in a water holding tank, which would be too expensive,” Pichon said.

Holliday said he had been out to the church and they are installing a fire alarm system in every room as well as in the duct work.

“This building will be used for Sunday School classes for 45 minutes on Sunday morning. There won’t be anyone sleeping up there or anything,” Holliday said.

The board approved the variance to install the fire alarm system instead of the sprinklers.

Pichon requested that this instance be considered a unique situation.

“The sprinkler systems are in place to keep the building there long enough for everyone to get out. I don’t want this to be a blanket solution for all situations,” Pichon said. The board did not vote on his request.

In other business, the board:

— Authorized president to sign contract for Katrina CDBG government building in Picayune.

— Authorized president to sign resolution for Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.

— Authorized order appointing Nathan Farmer as public defender for youth court.

— Authorized employees designated to sign purchase requisitions by department.

— Authorized receipt of FEMA reimbursement #40 and #41.

— Approved MDOT application for permit for tree removal.

The board recessed until 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29.