Picayune School Board welcomes Dr. Blackmer

Published 7:00 am Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Picayune City Council on Tuesday appointed Dr. Lori Blackmer, a local optometrist , to the Picayune school board to fill a seat that has gone vacant for nearly a year.

The board, which split on appointing Ray Scott back to the seat he had held on the board for one 5-year term, unanimously approved Blackmer’s appointment. She will fill the remaining four years of the term.

At the time Scott’s appointment ended on March 1, 2013, he went off the board. The city council had split 2-2 the previous month on his re-appointment when Mayor Ed Pinero and then-council member Larry Watkins had to recuse themselves from voting because their wives worked for the Picayune school system.

The seat remained vacant until Blackmer’s appointment because Gov. Phil Bryant refused to fill the seat, as law provides, when a stalemate over an appointment is reached, and the board, as it was constituted before last summer’s city elections, couldn’t agree on anyone else.

The board also approved the low bid of T.L. Wallace to move utility lines to city right of way at the old Hancock Bank building at West Canal and Norwood streets.

Public Works Director Eric Morris said after the meeting that Mississippi Power has bought the building and plans to move its offices there.

The company also plans an expansion to the rear of the property, which originally had been set aside for an alley but eventually returned to the adjacent property owners when the alley wasn’t built. The water, sewer and natural gas lines already had been placed in the ground. Mississippi Power has agreed to reimburse the city the $53,580 that it will cost to move the lines.

Morris said the natural gas lines at the site are not made of cast iron, which the city is seeking to replace with polyethylene pipe.

T.L. Wallace has appealed a decision by the city council at its last meeting to throw out both bids on the cast iron gas lines replacement project in the older part of the city where they are located and to advertise for new bids. Morris said circuit court will hear that appeal at 2 p.m. Friday in Poplarville.

He said new bids on the project have been received and he hopes they can be opened next week and referred to the council’s next meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 18.

Council member Larry Breland was concerned about the legality of awarding the bid to T.L. Wallace for the moving the utility lines while that appeal was pending. However, city attorney Nathan Farmer told him there are no legal problems with awarding the bid to the company.

“It’s a stand alone project,” Farmer said, and not connected in anyway to the appeal, but agreed the timing of awarding the bid on this project was “unfortunate.”

In other business, the board:

— Acknowledged receipt of the Proclamation of Existence of Local Emergency caused by the severe winter weather in combination with governor’s emergency proclamation..

— Approved applying for a Technical Assistance Grant with the Mississippi Department of Health’s Office of Tobacco Control.

— Approved request to participate in the Senior Community Service Employment Program.

— Approved two requests to apply for Transportation Alternative 2014-Safe Routes to School grants for work at Roseland Park Elementary and at South Side Elementary, and a request to apply for a Transportation Alternative Prlect 2014- Enhancement of Existing Hospital Site grant. Each of the grants requires a 20 percent match by the city. Grants coordinator Christy Goss said the city is seeking other grants to make up the city’s 20 percent match for the hospital project and City Clerk Amber Hinton said that making the matches would be no problem even if the city received all three grants and didn’t receive grants to meet the 20 percent match on the hospital project.

The total amount of all three matches $130,632, with the hospital matching amount being the largest at $100,000.

— Approved out of state travel for Police Chief Bryan Dawsey, Capt. Jeremy Magri and City Manager Jim Luke to attend an OCIC training conference March 2-5 in Gatlinburg Tenn.

— Approved declaring as surplus some police property to be auctioned with the funds going to the Special Police Drug Fund.

— Accepted a check of $137 for use of the city airport by B & S Air.

Recessed until Tuesday, Feb. 18.