Routine meeting broken by difference of opinion

Published 4:36 pm Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A difference of opinion lead to a heated discussion about what should be done with funds set aside to develop a smart growth plan.

After District I Supervisor Anthony Hales made a motion to send a resolution to the Mississippi Development Authority to find out, in writing, what exactly is to be done with about $400,000 in smart growth grant funds, the heated discussion began.

During the previous administration Camp Dresser and McKee was hired by the county to create a growth plan under a separate grant, said County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin.

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Hales said every time he called the MDA to find out the county’s obligation with the as yet unfinished plan under a new grant, he got different answers from the same representative.

“I want all the facts before the board before we make a decision on this grant,” Hales said.

District III Supervisor Hudson Holliday said he thinks a smart growth plan would be better suited for large growth areas in urban settings, but did say he would keep an open mind and listen to what MDA had to say. Sandy Kane Smith, District V Supervisor, agreed that the board should talk with MDA to find out all the facts.

Holliday then wanted to know what came out of the $300,000 that was paid to CDM with the previous grant. Holliday asked for proof of a product for the money paid and suggested that the county hold off. That suggestion started a heated debate between Hales and Holliday.

“Your way is not the only way that things can be done in this county,” Hales said to Holliday

“You sit there talking about all this growth and planning, show me what you got for this money,” Holliday said. “Show me the money, show me the meat.”

“It doesn’t matter if it was prime rib, you wouldn’t eat,” Hales said.

“That’s not true, I love prime rib,” Holliday said.

Hales then said that no more work has been done by CDM because an employee of the county instructed them to not to proceed. Hales would not name county employee when asked by the Picayune Item, but said he believes there may be miscommunication between CDM and the Planning Department J. Patrick Lee, District IV Supervisor, said that CDM was waiting on the new board to decide what its members wanted to do concerning the topic. Lee did see a need for some kind of plan, especially if a liquor referendum ever passes and bars begin opening in locations where residents oppose them.

After the discussion, all board members said they would like to talk with the MDA and they approved a motion to send the resolution to gain more information.

A separate discussion about the MDA concerning the Home Buyer Assistance Grant ended with the board acknowledging receipt of a letter from the agency. Holliday and Lee said they were concerned that the homes built under this program might be tax free. Hales said that the $25,000 grant would only assist with a down payment, and that loans still would be needed and repaid for the new homes by working class families. All permits and taxes would still apply.

A biodesiel plant may be built in the Millard area, just south of Central Landfill along the railroad off of U.S. 11. The proposed facility would employ about 16 people and would use vegetable oil brought in by rail to produce the fuel, Lumpkin said. The land where the proposed plant would be built is owned by the Pearl River County School District. If the land was purchased, new 16th section land would need to be acquired. The board approved letter of support concerning the matter.

Fire insurance rebate checks should soon be distributed to the county volunteer fire departments. Each department is expected to receive about $15,000. The board asked Emergency Operations Director Danny Manley to get each department to sign off and meet all legal criteria when they collect their money. The board approved a motion to issue the checks along with legal correspondence that satisfies the board attorney and Manley.

An executive session covered personnel matters in the Emergency Operations Center, Road Department and the Justice Court. Personnel changes in the EOC and the Road Department were approved but no action was taken on the Justice Court matter, Lumpkin said.

In other business the board;

— Acknowledged about $47,000 in seized and forfeited monies by the Sheriff’s Department.

— Tabled a motion to authorize the board president to sign an agreement to establish interoperable emergency communications.

— Approved travel for Deputy Justin Faia to conduct accident reconstruction training beginning July 21, travel for Vickie Hariel to attend a Circuit Clerk’s convention July 16-19 in Natchez, and Anita Sumrall and Marlinda Guerra to attend PERS training in Hattiesburg on July 14.

The next meeting is at 9 a.m. July 14 at the board room in the historic courthouse.