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Supervisors eye storm shelter bids

A major construction project of three 10,000 square-foot storm shelters in Pearl River County is looming as Pearl River County Emergency Management Director Danny Manley briefed supervisors on Monday on the project’s status.

Total project costs are expected to approach $9 million.

The project, funded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and funneled to the county through Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, will see three storm shelters constructed: One on the Picayune high school campus, another on the Pearl River Central high school campus at Carriere and the third on the fairgrounds at Poplarville.

The designated use of the facilities, while not in use by emergency agencies, federal or state, is as “safe rooms,” but the major use of the facilities are for an emergency in case of a major storm such as Katrina.

Federal officials want the storm shelters to be able to house refugees from such a storm for a 36-hour period. The shelters are not meant to be long-term storm refuges but short-term safe facilities to get residents in a safe place during a major storm.

Officials also plan to take bids for drilling water wells for each facility so they will be self-sustaining during a major storm.

The storm shelters will not only offer residents a safe haven from a major storm, but will also, by pumping almost $10 million into the local economy next year, impact the county’s business climate.

Manley said contractors will be allowed to bid on just one facility, or on all three simultaneously.

He said a pre-bid conference is expected to be held on Monday between project architects and contractors who plan to bid on the project.

Bids are expected to be opened at the board of supervisors meeting on Dec. 1, and construction should get underway by the first part of January, said Manley.

Construction completion dates are expected to be next November, he added.

On another matter, supervisors heard two Pearl River County Hospital officials describe improvements and upgrades to the hospital and nursing home. Hospital official, Hope Thomley, said officials wanted to report to supervisors about what’s happening at the hospital on a regular basis.

“As Poplarville’s largest employer, we want to report to you about things going on there,” she told supervisors.

Also, Suzanne Wilson, a Nursing Home assistant director, told supervisors about a “rejuvenation” program that has made major improvements to the nursing home, which reportedly has been identified as one of the best in the state and in the Southeastern U.S.

Thomley said there are 107 residents at the nursing home and that a waiting list is growing. The nursing home and hospital are operated as a joint facility.

Supervisor Hudson Holliday congratulated the women on the successes at the hospital.

“This board, when it took office, said it wanted to change the environment at the hospital and have a real hospital here and not just a first-aid station. There have been major changes and upgrades, and I and this board want to thank all the staff there for their hard work and sacrifices.,” said Holliday.

The Pearl River County Hospital services mainly the northern section of Pearl River County. It is supported by a tax levy in old Supervisor Beats 1, 2 and 3, levied in the northern section of the county.

On another matter, supervisors voted to accept the retirement of one of the county’s drug dogs, Bartje (pronounced Bar-Gee). Bartje is one of two drug dogs owned by the sheriff’s department and has been used by the department to locate drugs during busts and seizures.

Bartje is 13 years old.

The process was technically called “the retirement of an asset,” but Supervisor and board president Anthony Hales, Sr., was curious about Bartje’s fate. “What will be done with this faithful dog,” he asked Sheriff David Allison.

Allison said the dog would be retired and live with its handler, who has agreed to adopt it.

On other matters, supervisors:

— Accepted quarterly fee checks from Central Land Fill for $10,973 and from Charter cable for $17,000. Both checks were for third quarter fees owed the county.

— Approved travel requests for: Four jail employees to the ACA Winter Conference in Phoenix on Jan. 20-25; sheriff’s department employee K. Ross to Clandestine Laboratory Investigation-Safety Certification Program in Moorhead, Miss., on Nov. 15-18; sheriff’s department employee D. Quave to Global Counter-Smuggling Training in Port Allen, La., on Jan. 2-13; and election commissioners to ECAM Convention in Choctaw, Miss., on Jan. 25-27.

— Recessed until 9 a.m. Monday in the board room at the courthouse annex.