Supervisors learn PRVO bus for seniors cancelled

Published 2:38 pm Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The lack of senior citizen transportation, the return of an emergency helicopter and a possible new road to connect West Union and Anchor Lake roads were discussed by the county’s governing body.

Monday the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors decided to appoint a county employee to serve on the Pearl River Valley Opportunity board. That appointment is supposed to ensure senior transportation needs are met.

The board also learned that Rescue 7, the district’s emergency helicopter, is operational again after a small mishap, and a second opinion was sought was sought for the price to build a road to a proposed new school site.

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County resident Ruth McCastle, a retired citizen of the county, told the board she is concerned about the PRVO bus that she had been riding for the past 14 years ceased its services earlier this month. She said and the rest of the county’s senior citizens will now have a hard time getting to doctors’ appointments and the grocery store.

“It’s important that we get to the doctor,” McCastle said.

Apparently, PRVO and South Mississippi Planning and Development were providing the bus service to retired citizens of the county but ceased the routes recently. Board president Anthony Hales said the board was unaware the service had stopped. PRVO had approached the board at the end of the fiscal year to ask for $17,000 to help them cover expenses from the previous year. Hales said he did not hear of the service ceasing, though.

Hales said he has asked Planning and Development Director Ed Pinero to join PRVO’s board so that the supervisors will hear of any future actions that might affect the county’s senior citizens.

Cutting expenses was mentioned to the board, but Hales said that if cuts had to be made to the bus service, then days the service was offered should have been cut out, not the entire service should not have been cut out.

“I think South Mississippi Planning and Development and PRVO owe us some kind of explanation,” Hales said.

Hales said he is sending Pinero to the next meeting and plans to contact two other members of the board, David Simmons and Shirley Wiltshire, who are Pearl River County residents.

While senior citizens without a vehicle of their own battle for transportation needs, the airborne emergency medical transportation needs of county residents is back in action. Pearl River County Emergency Management Director Danny Manley said that as of Friday, Rescue 7, the county’s medical emergency helicopter is back in the sky. However, the service has recently lost a pilot, forcing the remaining pilots to work 12 hour shifts, Manley said.

There is concern that Lamar County will use another helicopter service and Forrest General and Wesley Medical Center are considering getting their own helicopters. If one of those entities drops out of the district contract that provides Rescue 7 services to this area, problems with helicopter service could arise.

Since it appeared that Rescue 7 usually brings patients to Hattiesburg for treatment, Manley expects that when the new hospital is constructed and county health care services are upgraded Rescue 7 may not be needed.

“We just got to survive until that happens,” Hales said.

Until that time, Manley said a back up helicopter and pilots are needed.

The new road proposed for the proposed site for a new school in the Pearl River County School District now has a second price estimate, which came in a bit lower that the first. At the board’s last meeting county engineer Les Dungan estimated the cost to build the road to be at $2.54 million. At the request of school district superintendent, Dennis Penton, Dungan consulted another source, who quoted a price of about $2.1 million to build the 2.37 miles of road from West Union Road to Anchor Lake Road parallel to Interstate 59.

That road was requested by the school district because the district proposes to build a new school in that area, if a bond issue is approved by voters in the district. The school district has indicated it would put up $500,000 toward the construction of the road. Dungan said the county could ask for about $1 million in federal funding and also possibly ask for state aid money. District V Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith thinks the $1 million in federal money that Dungan is referring to has been set aside for the proposed interstate exchange at Anchor Lake Road.

The board decided to take the conversation under advisement.

In other business the board;

— Approved increasing engineering fees from 10 percent to 12 percent for Local System Bridge Program projects as recommended by the state aid engineer.

— Approved using LSBP funds to conduct bridge maintenance on nine county bridges.

The next board meeting is at 9 a.m. Oct. 27.