Supervisor discuss issues

Published 1:55 pm Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Congressional earmarks have come under harsh criticism lately in the national press, but Pearl River County will also be getting a share of the handouts by Congress for special projects in Congressional districts.

The Anchor Lake road project is one of several issues discussed at Monday’s board meeting and will be financed through a Congressional earmark, according to county officials.

Supervisors also set a public hearing for a planned subdivision to be constructed in Burgetown Community and also discussed school bus turn-around costs and litter issues.

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The special Anchor Lake road project here is a 2.4-mile road connecting Anchor Lake Road with West Union Road on the east side of I-59, and supervisors along with other county officials landed the funds on two recent trips to Washington, D.C.

The funds will amount to approximately $2.5 million and should be in place by the first of the year so the project can get underway early next year, according to discussions on the matter at Monday’s board of supervisors meeting here.

The board on Monday appointed Les Dungan of Dungan Engineering, 925 Goodyear Blvd., Picayune, as consulting engineer on the project.

The road, say supervisors, is a much-needed project to open a new route to the interstate in the east central section of the county, will help alleviate traffic congestion on Hwy. 11 and other county roads, and will open up for development a section of the county that currently has interstate access problems.

When the road is completed residents in that area will have access to I-59’s Exit 10 off West Union Road, instead of having to travel back west to Hwy. 11 as they do now.

In addition, officials said the road will open up the area for development. Pearl River County school officials are looking into the possibility of constructing a new school in that area which contains 16th section school lands, Supervisor Hudson Holliday said.

Holliday said the Anchor Lake project is the first major road project to be constructed by supervisors in his memory.

Federal funds for the project will be funneled to the county through the State-Aid road division.

County administrator Adrian Lumpkin said $950,000 had already been earmarked for the project and the remaining funds are in the process of coming on line.

Supervisor Patrick Lee said a trip to Washington, D..C., by county officials helped secure the project’s funding.

Said Holliday, “From my knowledge this is the first all-out new road constructed by the county; we do a lot of repairs and straightening to already existing roads in the county, but this will be the first road that we have totally constructed ourselves.”

He added, “This will get a lot of traffic onto the interstate and help cut down on traffic on Hwy. 11 and other county roads. It will also open up that area for development.”

Said board president and supervisor Anthony Hales: “It is to my memory that all we have done in the past is keep up what we have inherited; I don’t recall us constructing a road of this importance and magnitude since I have been on the board. It will help traffic flow, plus the schools.” Hales has served 20 years as a supervisor.

Said Dungan, “It is a new route; for the last 10 years since I have been here all our projects have been on already existing routes.”

Supervisors are hoping that funding to start the project will be in place by the first part of next year so contracts can be bid.

Concerning school bus turn-arounds, Holliday suggested to the board that supervisors and school officials meet to discuss setting a policy on installation and maintenance of school bus turn-arounds.

The board took no formal action on the issue but did discuss it at length.

Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith said he favored eliminating them and having buses pick up and discharge students on main county roads.

The way it works now, parents notify school officials where they want their children picked up and school officials notify supervisors about the need for a turn-around. However, in what is usually the case, the installation or maintenance of a turn-around requires supervisors to improve what is essentially drive-ways to homes, mostly in the rural areas. And some drive-ways are real long, say supervisors.

And with three school districts in the county, that means a lot of construction and maintenance costs associated with “school bus turn-arounds,” county administrator Adrian Lumpkin said. “There are a lot of them.”

Supervisors have been complaining about the costs of such work.

County road manager Mike Mitchell told supervisors that Lamar County and a lot of other counties are cutting back on such work because of budget restrictions.

Holliday said that setting a policy on the issue would also save schools money on fuel and bus maintenance. Holliday said that some students who are only five miles from the school are picked up at their doorsteps.

Surrounding the issue are the demands of parents, who want their children picked up as close as possible to their homes for safety and convenience reasons.

During the discussion, Holliday twice suggested the conference between supervisors and school officials but no action was taken on his requests.

The litter issue also came up for discussion when citizen Lee Armstrong said he was having problems with people throwing trash on Peters Road in White Sand Community. He told supervisors that it did not seem right to him to have prisoners pick up after residents who were essentially breaking the law when they throw trash on the roads.

“What we need to do is arrest some of them, fine them and run their names in the newspaper,” Armstrong told supervisors. “That would help solve the problem.”

Hales told Armstrong that there is a $250 reward for persons turning in litterers, if the person charged is convicted, but in all the years he has been on the board, he has seen only one case in which the reward was paid.

Hales said the county has a litter law and a litter officer, and suggested that the litter officer should do some undercover surveillance in order to capture and arrest persons throwing trash on the roads.

Holliday said that last year the county kicked off a campaign against litter, trash and for removing old, dilapidated housing but public awareness and education is the key to solving the problem. “It’s a cultural problem,” he said. “We have got to break a culture of disregard for our county and the act of throwing trash out on the roads.”

“I went on the web the other night, and found a report, ranking the states on this matter, and guess where Mississippi was. It was 50th, on the bottom,” he added.

Smith said that he told one resident that the county planned to crack down on litterers and that the person told him, “You are just picking on the poor people.”

Said Smith, “I told him, you don’t have to be rich to be clean.”

On the Burgetown subdivision, supervisors approved a request from county planning director Ed Pinero, Jr., to set a Tuesday, Jan. 19, public hearing in the board of supervisors meeting room on the proposed Tin Hill subdivision plate, a project planned for the Burgetown Community. The hearing is open to any citizens with comments either for or against the project.

Supervisors went into an executive session and then adjourned to Monday at 9 a.m.