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Partners gets recognition from council

Partners for Pearl River County was a topic twice mentioned at the recent meeting of the Picayune City Council.

The first instance came when council member Leavern Guy used his council members concerns section of Tuesday’s meeting to commend Partners for their work and urged the council to continue their support of the organization.

Since it is the only economic arm of the county he encouraged the council to discuss ways to be supportive of Partners. Recently the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors approved a motion to cut funding to the organization after they believed that their most recent appointments would not be ratified by the Partners board. Mayor Greg Mitchell suggested getting in contact with Partners and having them share an update with the council on the progress Partners has made in Picayune since 2005.

Guy said Partners does a good job of bringing industry to the area.

The second instance came when Patty Brantley with Neal Shaffer gave an update to the Comprehensive Plan. In her update she listed Partners as a major player in the economic development in Picayune and that the city should take equal participation in the representation for Partners.

“Picayune is the economic engine of Pearl River County,” Brantley said.

More information concerning the Comprehensive Plan will be covered in a separate story.

In a separate matter the request by Michelle Durr to combine two properties she has businesses on into one parcel under a subdivision request was again tabled. According to information shared at previous meetings Durr plans to use one of the buildings for a multipurpose hall. Public outrage against the matter deals with the possibility of loud gatherings, parking problems and drainage issues. That same subdivision matter has come up in a couple of previous council meetings but each time was tabled due to the absence of a council member. Tuesday that council member, Anna Turnage, was present but another council member, Donald Parker, was absent. Parker asked Guy to have the matter tabled at Tuesday’s meeting, Guy said.

Turnage, who had missed previous meetings for medical reasons, said she showed up to Tuesday’s meeting to address the topic and came prepared. However since the council respected her request to table the matter previously she would also respect Parker’s request. She did share some information about the matter with the council concerning a petition of 87 names objecting the subdivision request and also some information to ease the minds of those who objected. She said there are ordinances in place that may prohibit the sale of alcohol at the hall, since it may be close to a daycare. However she said there is still the matter of drainage problems that ensued after unauthorized dirt work was conducted on the site without a permit. Henry Porter, who lives and owns property next to Durr’s property said her unauthorized dirt work has caused his property to flood.

City property owner Bill Edwards also gave his opinion on the matter, stating that the unauthorized dirt work gives him reason to doubt Durr will comply with the city’s ordinances if she is granted the subdivision request.

City Employee Barbara McGrew said if the matter is approved then it will have to go back before Site Plan Review committee before any more work can continue. The matter was eventually tabled, with Turnage opposed, and the petition of 87 names was added to the council minutes.

A short discussion about the city budget came up when City Clerk Priscilla Daniel presented the council with a request to acknowledge receipt of the monthly budget report. Mitchell asked Daniel to give the council an update how sales taxes were coming into the city. She said the taxes sent to the city in March, which are collected two months prior, were about $24,000 above projections. So far the city has collected about 50 percent of their fiscal budget. The fiscal year ends in October.

Daniel also informed the council that the city has hired a dedicated warrant officer to serve warrants for unpaid fines, which should help collect some money.

The Picayune Item then asked the council how their annual audit report was coming along, since it is about time for it to be due. Guy turned that question to Daniel, who said an auditor is working on the audit and is currently waiting on information from city attorney Nathan Farmer and a letter from the council.

An update about the progress Siemens is making with the analysis of water and gas meters was shared with the council Tuesday. Tony Ardillo with Siemens said the detailed study is now complete and recommendations have been made. In the recommendation are the pros and cons of using automated meters but in the end he feels a change with concerning the city’s current meters will bring accountability back to the city’s utilities. Not only would it develop a system of customer service checks and balances, but customers could be alerted to potential leaks and the city could be alerted to potential theft of services.

Using the automated meters would enable the city to read all the city’s meters in less than two days. Ardillo said it would take about six months to replace or retrofit all of the city’s water and gas meters. If all goes well with the contract between the city and Siemens he expects to be able to start work in the next 60 days.

Ardillo was asked to meet with Miller, Daniel and Farmer to work the details in the contract so it can be brought before the council in the next three weeks.

During the citizens concerns J.P. Burns asked about the status of the smoking ordinance, slated to have action taken on it at Tuesday’s meeting. Tuesday’s agenda had no mention of the ordinance. Miller said since Farmer was out for a medical reason it has been pushed back so it is now scheduled to be taken up at a meeting in April after some issues with the ordinance have been worked out.

The council went into executive session to discuss contractual matters with CRI, bond money, Centraplex, NSI and the airport. They also were slated to discuss a compromise dealing with disputed claims and the possible sale of land. Decisions on those matters were not available as of press time Tuesday evening.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting will be at 6 p.m. April 7.