Supervisors okay housing Jackson Co. prisoners at PRC jail

Published 4:35 pm Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Forty-four Jackson County prisoners were scheduled to be transferred to the Pearl River County jail late Monday or early Tuesday, said Sheriff David Allison, who asked supervisors on Monday to sign a contract with Jackson County in connection with the transfer.

Currently housed at the jail in Millard are 324 prisoners, so the extra 44 from Jackson County will bring to 368 housed at the jail facility, if that many are received.

Pearl River County houses prisoners from Hancock County, Poplarville and Picayune, besides its own Pearl River County prisoners and now those from Jackson County.

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Allison said that after the first prisoner transfer, Pearl River County jail authorities will receive additional transfers that will ultimately bring to about 60 the number of Jackson County prisoners housed at the Pearl River County jail at Millard.

Allison said Jackson County will pay Pearl River County $45 per day for each prisoner housed here. Jackson County was forced to disperse its prisoners after its facilities were deemed substandard, and it will be at least two years before they can build new facilities that meet guidelines.

The new revenue to the Pearl River County system is welcomed here by the sheriff’s department and county supervisors, who wrestled over budget considerations regarding the new jail during budget hearings in August and September.

Supervisors on Monday authorized board president Anthony Hales to sign the contract, along with Chancery Clerk David Earl Johnson, with the stipulation that board attorney Joe Montgomery examine the contract.

“They will start bringing the prisoners this afternoon (Monday) is what they told me on Friday,” Allison told supervisors.

“We told them right now we can house 44 prisoners, but I don’t know if they will bring all of them at once,” said Allison. “We will try to get it up to 60, up to 60 beds.”

If the prisoners hit 60, that will bring the total number of prisoners housed at Millard to 384.

“We cleaned out two dorms for them,” said Allison. “We have a 30-man dorm and a 14-man dorm.”

He said jail officials were trying not to mix the Jackson County prisoners with other inmates, that they were trying to keep them separated.

He said the goal is to get the prison population up to 400.

On another matter, two officials in charge of what is termed a “smart-growth plan” being produced with a grant from the Mississippi Development Authority appeared before supervisors on Monday after supervisors at their last board meeting said they wanted to talk to officials compiling the report “face-to-face.”

The meeting came about after Supervisor Hudson Holliday said that the officials were telling supervisors that the study was 95 percent complete but there never had been any public hearings held to gather public input into the plan from private citizens, something officials said they would do when presenting the plan for the study to the board last year for its approval.

Although supervisors drilled the two officials with some tough questions, they agreed to continue compiling the study and plan since they were so far into it now.

Mickey Lagasse, a consultant to Camp, Dresser and McKee of Gulfport, who is in charge of drawing up the plan with a grant from MDA, told supervisors that he would make sure each supervisor gets a draft copy of the plan and that the two public hearings would be scheduled after Thanksgiving.

He also said he would hold “workshops” for supervisors, if they requested it, to brief them on the plan.

Supervisors also voted to extend the contract into March to give the company and supervisors more time to decide on what they want.

The plan has been controversial since it was proposed and begun on a 4-1 vote last year. The plan is supposed to help guide growth and economic development as the county and its two cities grow. It is supposed to help promote orderly growth.

The plan eventually will cost between $700,000 and $800,000, but supervisors have advanced upfront funding of more than $300,000. However, they seemed to indicate on Monday that they have seen few results from the money and their efforts.

However, supervisors will be reimbursed by MDA for money invested in the project. One of the arguments used last year to move forward with the project was that the county would be reimbursed for any money spent on the project.

Lagasse appeared before supervisors with George Carbo, a CDM planner.

Carbo said little; Lagasse made the bulk of the presentation.

“We are 95 percent finished with the draft,” said Lagasse, “but we are not at all ready to close out the plan.” He said he would have the two hearings to receive public input. One hearing would be held in Picayune, the other in Poplarville, he said.

Supervisor Patrick Lee wanted to know how the company would get copies of the draft plan out to the public so citizens could review and study it before going to the public hearing to offer input and discuss it.

Lagasse said the report could be placed in city halls, at the courthouse and strategic locations, such as libraries.

“What about PJs?” asked Lee. PJs is a coffee house in Picayune where a lot of Picayune politicians and business people hang out. The crowd chuckled at Lee’s remarks .

Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith said he believes each supervisor should be thoroughly briefed on what is in the plan, that “communication was lost” between the plan developers and writers and supervisors, and that the whole program should be put back on track.

“We need to fix this communication problem,” said Smith. “You guys need to come here on a regular basis and let us know what is happening.”

Hales said he believes people were confused between what is a plan and a policy. “A plan is just a plan. Some people think we are trying to shove this down their throat. But a plan is just a plan, and it can be changed and modified…Why would we sit here and not try to look down the road with this plan and try to take some correct steps,” said Hales.

Said Holliday, “To be honest with you, I have been reviewing this draft plan, all morning and I don’t see a plan here. I see a lot of statistics from federal and state reports. The report even lists the wrong set of supervisors in here.”

Holliday continued, “For instance there is a segment here labeled tapestry segmentation area profile. I am not the smartest guy in the world, but I don’t know what that means, and I will guarantee you that if you put this report out on the street, the average citizen won’t either.”

“Let me put it this way,” said Holliday. “When this is over with, we will have spent $800,000 of the people’s money. I just think that when we spend that much of the people’s money, we need to get something for it, and I don’t see it in this plan.”

In other business, supervisors:

— Approved bonding Felicia Dedeaux as a receiving clerk.

— Approved the sheriff’s personnel report.

— Approved assigning a seized vehicle to building and grounds dept.

— Accepted the roads of the Lake David Subdivision into the county road system.

— Directed Montgomery to check on Galaxy cable company’s franchise fee payments to the county. Hales said he did not think the county was getting the full amount it should. Galaxy cable serves Poplarville.

— Decided not to place an ad in the state supervisors’ official magazine.

— Approved the October 2009 board minutes.

— Approved the following holidays: Nov. 26 and 27 for Thanksgiving, Dec. 24 and 25 for Christmas and Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 for New Years.

— Approved travel for the records clerk to the Cobra Banker Seminar in Birmingham, Ala., on Dec. 2-4.

— Recessed until Monday, Nov. 9, at 9 a.m.