Supervisor apologizes for statements made against former employee

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, June 23, 2015

MORE BUSINESS: Laurence Leyens of Urban Development Toolbox proposes a plan to bring Walmart Neighborhood Market and other businesses to Picayune by utilizing the TIF plan. Photo by Ashley Collins.

MORE BUSINESS: Laurence Leyens of Urban Development Toolbox proposes a plan to bring Walmart Neighborhood Market and other businesses to Picayune by utilizing the TIF plan. Photo by Ashley Collins.

Monday, the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors publicly apologized to former animal control officer Frank Graves regarding comments made by a county supervisor in a story published in the Item.

The comments were made by District V Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith, who previously informed the Item about stray pit bulls he and District II Supervisor Malcolm Perry picked up last Monday in the Apple South Subdivision.

At the meeting, Graves accused Smith of slandering his name in the article.

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“I had a lot of people support me in this and apologizing for the things you said,” Graves said.

Smith apologized to Graves and said he was misquoted in the article.

“I never intended to bring you into this,” Smith said. “I never said you weren’t fulfilling your duty.”

The article in question reported on the lack of animal control in the county. Smith, along with two supervisors, voted to cut animal funding in preparation for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. In the article, Smith said he voted to cut the funds because they weren’t being used properly under the leadership of Graves.

Smith was quoted as saying, “If we are going to have someone designated to animal control it needs to be done properly.”

Smith said that wasn’t the case.

“My hands were tied and we had no choice but to cut some funding to avoid raising taxes,” Smith said.

During his interview with the Item, Smith said he mentioned that he thought Graves was a good person. He said that comment was omitted from the article.

Several board members, including Smith, and Pearl River County Sheriff David Allison praised Graves for his work.

Also at the meeting, the board agreed to hold a public hearing concerning a proposed Tax Increment Financing plan.

The public hearing will be held on Monday, July 6 at 9 a.m. inside the court facilities in Poplarville.

Laurence Leyens of Urban Development Toolbox presented the plan and said there are many phases local developer Andy Cooper has planned concerning the development alongside Highland Community Hospital. One of the phases includes the establishment of a road and infrastructure to build a Walmart Neighborhood Market.  The infrastructure is said to cost an estimated $2 million but Cooper said he also plans to build residential and commercial areas around the Walmart Neighborhood Market. By using a TIF bond, it would cover about half of the expenses from the entire infrastructure, which could cost as much as $6.5 million.

Last week, Cooper and Laurence spoke to the Picayune City Council, who also agreed to hold a public hearing at their next council meeting on Tuesday, July 7, according to previous Item coverage.

Both public hearings will allow citizens to voice their opinions about the project, Laurence said.

District I Supervisor Anthony Hales said it’s important citizens are educated on how TIF bonds work in order to be properly informed at the meeting.

“It would help them actively participate in the meeting instead of talking through rumors they heard,” Hales said.

That is why they plan to advertise the TIF plan once the draft is submitted, Laurence said.

Once the public hearings are completed, the county and city will decide if they want to adopt, modify or decline the plan, Laurence said.

Also at the meeting, County Engineer Les Dungan provided up-to-date information on the progress of numerous countywide road and bridge projects. The Barth Road and E.T. Poole bridge replacement projects are 95 percent complete. Both roadways are currently open. The Old Kiln Road Bridge, which was damaged by rainstorms in May, should be completed in the next week or so, Dungan said.

Contractors working at the Richardson-Ozona Road realignment project battled wet soil, which slowed the project’s progress.

“But then they made significant progress by placing draining pipes to allow the area to drain,” Dungan said.

The realignment project is expected to be complete by early next year, Dungan said.

In other business the board:

­—Approved travel for the emergency management director to attend training in Brandon, Miss. on June 18-19.

—Approved travel for Tax Assessor staff, including the tax collector, office manager, chief appraiser and head teller, to attend a convention in Biloxi, Miss. on July 12-16.

—Approved travel for the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department to attend a search and seizure seminar in Diamondhead, Miss. on June 23 and Miss. Stars Conference in Biloxi, Miss. on August 4-6.

—Approved personnel changes in the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department.

—Approved personnel changes in the PRC Road Department.

—Acknowledged Friday, July 3 as a holiday for Independence Day, which falls on Saturday, July 4.

The next board meeting will be on Monday, July 6 at 9 a.m.