Wicker visits Picayune

Published 7:00 am Saturday, February 20, 2016

ENGAGING WITH LEADERS: Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker met with city and county leaders Friday morning to address local concerns.  Photo by Cassandra Favre

ENGAGING WITH LEADERS: Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker met with city and county leaders Friday morning to address local concerns.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

In an effort to be fiscally responsible with the taxpayer’s money, Picayune’s city leaders reached out to the office of Mississippi’s United States Senator Roger Wicker and requested a visit.
Friday, Wicker met with city and county officials to discuss their concerns at the local level.
Each year, the mayor, Picayune City Council and Pearl River County Board of Supervisors travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with senators to discuss city issues and grant opportunities, Picayune City Manager Jim Luke said.
“It cost thousands of dollars to send a group and they asked me to see what I could do to cut costs, in order to continue being fiscally responsible with the taxpayers’ money,” Luke said. “Also, in D.C. you only get 30 minute meetings and sometimes they only last five minutes because the senator needs run to the Capitol do his job. Now that we have him here, he gets to see what Picayune is all about.”
District II Supervisor Malcolm Perry said it cost about $30,000 to send three supervisors, the county administrator and county engineer to D.C. last year.
“We just want to thank the city of Picayune for inviting the supervisors to meet with the senator,” Perry said. “It saved the taxpayers a lot of money.”
Prior to fielding questions from the audience, Wicker discussed national issues, one of which was the nation’s $19 trillion debt.
“We have a problem with national debt,” he said. “And it comes from the mandatory programs such as Medicare and Social Security. I support Medicare, but we’re going to have to figure out a way to slow the growth rate of Medicare. Social Security is another chunk of this 70 percent we don’t appropriate for. I want it to be there for my dad, my grandchildren and me. We have to figure out a way to make Social Security work long-term. And that’s the 70 percent of spending that is causing our debt to be $19 trillion. We’re going to have to look to our next president to slow the growth rate. No one’s going to lose their coverage, but we’ve got to be smart and think of ways to slow that growth rate.”
Wicker also discussed the Eureka bill he has this year, which involves a prize system, to give someone a prize for curing Alzheimer’s disease, he said.
“My bill and I got the support of every Alzheimer’s group,” he said. “The idea is that the federal government doesn’t spend the money until they get the results. The return on that investment would be guaranteed.”
After Wicker finished, District III Supervisor Hudson Holliday addressed two issues, the first being maintaining the critical access status of the Pearl River County Hospital, which is being threatened by a mileage rule. The second issue Holiday mentioned is hospital is behind on Medicare by $2 million, which need forgiveness.
“Those are very important hospitals being threatened by the current administrations,” Wicker said. “We’ve been working on it. Mississippi is made of small towns and rural communities and we need to keep our critical access.”
District IV Supervisor Farron Moeller asked the senator about the possibility of an increased gas tax.
“We’re not going to raise the gas taxes at the federal level,” Wicker said.
Picayune Public Works Director Eric Morris addressed the city’s utility infrastructure regarding water lines, many of which are old and need to be upgraded, which could cost up to $20 million dollars.
Morris asked the senator if he knew of any suggestions for funding assistance, in addition to CDBG funds the city has already received.
Wicker said his office would work with Morris to find resources at the state level.
District V Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith also inquired about guidance for grants in regard to the depreciation of the Pearl River County Courthouse. The county received a state grant to complete ADA upgrades, but was denied a grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, he said. There are court orders requiring the upgrades.
“We’ll see if we can help, but again there’s 82 counties and it’s hard to do,” Wicker said. “At the state supervisors meeting, you’ll find that a lot of them are facing the same problem, there’s just not enough money to go around.”

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