Longtime road department employee is honored by Board of Supervisors

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, March 8, 2017


The Boardroom was full Monday morning as family and friends of Ben Louis Harry, Sr., known as “Uncle Rab” by many, gathered to hear a resolution by the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors, honoring Harry after he passed away last week for his 22 years of hard work at the Pearl River County Road Department.

“The Board of Supervisors of Pearl River County, Mississippi, does hereby express its deepest appreciation and sincerest thanks to Ben Louis Harry, Sr. ‘Uncle Rab’ and his family for his faithful service to the citizens of Pearl River County, Mississippi, for more than 22 years,” Board Attorney Joe Montgomery read from the resolution.

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In an unrelated road department matter, County Road Manager Charlie Schielder said he is still searching for qualified asphalt workers to begin countywide paving projects.

While the department is able to “get by,” Schielder said having trained asphalt employees would improve the quality of the work.

He said applications are available at the WIN Job Center in Picayune.

County Engineer Les Dungan updated the Board on current bridge replacement projects on Springhill Road and Rock Ranch Road.

Dungan said crews are replacing the last span of the first bridge on Springhill Road and expect to open that section of the road this week before moving north to the next bridge.

Rock Ranch Road will remain closed for the next six weeks, Dungan said, though he expects the project to move at a rapid pace.

Dungan also presented the Board with a proposal to “assist with implementation and preparation of a road plan that the county would implement with your own forces,” he said.

If approved, Dungan’s involvement in the routine management of the roads alongside the county road department would be a new practice for the county, he said.

While funding for road maintenance has remained steady, the cost of construction has increased, Dungan said, allowing the more than 860 miles of county roads to fall into substandard condition.

“This is something, without question, that would increase the cost per mile of work on the road in comparison to the past primarily because of the cost of my involvement…and the fact that we would be providing a more extensive level of construction,” Dungan said, calling the proposition a “deeper remedy for the roads.”

Board Vice President Hudson Holliday said hiring Dungan for this work would be a “rifle approach instead of shotgun approach… It’s going to cost us more now, but in the long run I think it’s going to cost us less…I think we’d have a better quality road and it’ll last longer.”

Dungan proposed to be paid by the hour and not to exceed five percent of the material cost.

“This is half, or less than half, of the normal fee for a state aid project,” he said.

For 2017, Dungan estimated the proposed projects would cost $1 million in materials.

Board President Sandy Kane Smith said the Board would discuss the proposal and make a decision at a later date.

Smith also asked Dungan to speak with the Mississippi Department of Transportation about removing the centerline delineators on Highway 11 near the intersection of Highland Parkway and Richardson-Ozona Road to allow for easier access into the Post Office Annex.

In other news, the Board:

-Approved a request from the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department to pay off $1,600 in liens for three seized vehicles. Sheriff David Allison said the department will either use or sell the vehicles.

-Was told by Pearl River County Code Enforcement Officer Kolby Davis that construction has picked up around the county, with 26 building plans inspected in February. About 80 percent of those are spec homes selling before they’re finished, Davis said.

-Heard an update from Pearl River County Tax Assessor Gary Beech about a possible change in how cell towers will be taxed. Beech said he is working with Hancock, Lamar, Harrison and Stone counties to come up with a uniform way to adequately tax cell towers starting with next year’s tax role.

-Approved an agreement with Landry and Lewis Architects to draw plans for the proposed courthouse annexes in Poplarville. Lumpkin said the company will charge a flat fee to draw up the plans, and if approved, will charge seven percent of construction costs.

-Approved moving a county holiday from Confederate Memorial Day on April 24, to Good Friday on April 14. State offices will remain closed on April 24.

-Approved entering into executive session to discuss junkyard ordinances, referencing reoccurring problems on Liberty Road in particular, as well as economic development and personnel issues.

The county is holding a town hall meeting Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Technology Center at Pearl River Community College.

The next Board meeting is scheduled for March 22 at 9 a.m.






About Julia Arenstam

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