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Volunteer helicopter help approved by county officials

Citing a need for an emergency air search team closer than Hattiesburg in the wake of a recent break from Pearl River County Jail, the board of supervisors approved a reimbursement program for pilots who volunteer their services and equipment for air searches.

Emergency management director Danny Manley told board members that in light of recent “inmate issues” and a lost child, that two helicopters “were in the air,” last week for air searches. He said that the county had benefited from the volunteer assistance of a pilot from the Picayune Airport, adding that although the county has no financial obligation to reimburse volunteers, he discovered that the county could reimburse the pilots for fuel and maintenance of their equipment during search and rescue missions.

Manley said he had contacted the county’s insurer for the fire departments and was told that as long as the county was not contracting with the pilots, the insurance company would cover them under the county’s policy while they were volunteering. “There is a pilot by the name of Scott Penton, he was a commercial pilot and a jet pilot and he has volunteered his time,” said Manley, adding that he was pleased with Penton’s offer and experience as a pilot.

Supervisor of District 3, Hudson Holliday, who is also a pilot, concurred, noting that Pearl River County was the third largest in the state and adding that although he did not foresee the need of helicopter and plane services “very often,” he did believe a reimbursement program was a good idea. “We should reimburse for fuel use, and also for maintenance,” said Holliday.

Board president Anthony Hales agreed, noting that he also believes reimbursement was good idea. “I have no problem with this,” Hales said.

Manley said that he would be the one to make the call to the pilot when help is needed to control how and when volunteer help was used.

Board members approved a reimbursement fee of $60 an hour for small plane use and $150 an hour for helicopter use.

 In other business:

— Sheriff David Alison asked for acknowledgment of a final default judgment for a seizure and forfeiture of a vehicle and cash. Alison said that the department had discovered $229,895 in cash in the gas tank of a 1999 Ford Windstar using a piece of $10,000 equipment the county had purchased to explore the gas tanks for contraband.   

— Acknowledged the list of roads in The Highlands subdivision.

— Approved the preliminary plat of the Wolf Ridge subdivision.

— Tabled action on a complaint by a Springhill Road resident concerning flooding of his property by the actions of a neighbor. The resident complained that his neighbor has stated her desire to have a pond on her property and because of nature and her actions, a berm was forming for a stream that flows on the woman’s property.

The resident complained that the actions of his neighbor an area 187 feet long in his back yard was flooding with three feet of water. He told the supervisors that the county had showed up to clean the stream and remove the berm, but that the neighbor had denied them access. He asked for the board’s help in solving the problem.

The board agreed to consult the county engineer to see if there was a legal solution to the resident’s problem.

— The county road manager reported that he had received 60 applications for a heavy equipment operator the county had advertised for. He said they were presently reviewing the applications and a new search would begin for a mechanic’s position.

— Heard from the local county-wide 4-H program that it had a budget shortfall of $3000 due to the economy and smaller donations from businesses and private individuals. Board members agreed to look into the matter and see if they would be able to help some on the shortfall. There are presently over 300 children within the county involved in the 4-H program.

— Approved issuing a check for $28,000 to Southern Tractor for two tractors.

— Approved transferring 911 services of the homes on Robert Dawsey Road from Hancock County to Pearl River County. The residents, because of their location, when calling 911 are routed to Hancock County and response time is approximately 30 minutes.

— Acknowledged efforts of Nicole Shaw who initiated a fund raiser for the Carriere Walking Trail. Shaw raised enough money to install chain link fencing for the trail and turned the checks and costs estimates over to the county.

— Discussed the jail education program the county has been investigating and the recent review of some of the supervisors and the county administrator of a software program designed to educate participants. The supervisors agreed they needed to follow through with the purchase of the program, but agreed the funds needed to be found whether through a grant process or funding options.

— Approved a request from Manley to seek bids for Phase II of the county’s generator project. Manley reported that after the initial purchase and installation of generators for several county buildings, the county had a cost under-run, resulting in a $300,000 fund balance. Manley was able to amend the original proposal approved by FEMA to include an additional generator for the health department, and ten disconnects for the lift stations.

— Approved Manley’s request to seek bids for Phase III of the generator project in which three volunteer fire departments and paid departments in Poplarville and Picayune would get generators through a 75/20/5 matching grant. Of that grant, FEMA pays 75 percent of the cost, MEMA pays 20 percent, and the participating departments pay the remaining 5 percent.

— Board members expressed their thankfulness on the continued recovery of District 2 supervisor Charles Culpepper who is recuperating from recent heart surgery. Although Culpepper was not at the meeting in his capacity as a board member, he did attend the Monday meeting.

The next board of Supervisors meeting is set for Monday, June 1, at 9 am in the county courthouse building on Julia Street.