Supervisors hold second town hall meeting
Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 8, 2017
Turnout for the town hall meeting in Picayune Thursday night showed that residents in the south end of Pearl River County are interested in what the Board of Supervisors has to say.
About 50 people showed up to the event to hear how taxes are split between varying entities, how the maintenance of roads is determined and funded, and have questions answered.
Most of the information presented during Thursday’s town hall meeting was identical to the one held in Poplarville on March 9, with some exceptions.
It was noted during the meeting that close to 50 percent of the general fund budget goes to the Sheriff’s Department, 19 percent funds the administration side of that department, while 18 percent funds operation of the jail.
During the question and answer section, Terry Farr asked how this county’s law enforcement expense compared with counties in the area. County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin said the expense is justified because within the 15th Judicial District, which also includes Jefferson Davis, Lamar, Lawrence and Marion counties, Pearl River County cases makes up most of the caseload handled by the 15th District Attorney’s office. Sheriff David Allison said Pearl River County cases make up 80 percent of that office’s caseload. Another $200,000 in annual funding goes toward cleanup of litter in the county, District III Supervisor Hudson Holliday said. “Now that’s a waste, no pun intended,” Holliday said.
Just like the meeting in Poplarville, attendees asked about road maintenance. Clyde Dease asked if the county has a plan to tackle the problem of subpar roads. District I Supervisor Donald Hart said the Board worked with County Engineer Les Dungan to inspect all of the 851 miles of county maintained roads to identify those in the worst shape. The aim is to fix the roads through a four-year road plan. District IV Supervisor Farron Moeller reassured attendees that through the use of soil cement, road bases in the worst shape will be fixed.
Lauren Fitts with Animal Advocates of Pearl River County also updated the public about the status of the horses recently confiscated by the county from a private owner due to neglect. She said that all 28 horses are now placed with capable caregivers.
State mandated consolidation of the Lumberton School District was also discussed. Lumpkin said that the matter is still under discussion with the Legislature. Lamar County School District has expressed interest in taking all students currently attending Lumberton School District during meetings of the committee formed under state mandate. Pearl River County only has three representatives on that 10-member committee, putting any public opinion of keeping Pearl River County children in this area in the minority, Lumpkin said.
If the committee decides to allow the 150 Pearl River County children in the Lumberton School District to attend the Poplarville School District, Poplarville’s Superintendent is ready to accommodate them, Holliday said.
Blighted properties were also a topic of discussion. Picayune Code Enforcement Officer and Planning and Zoning Director Tom Milar said he is a resident of Nicholson, and has noticed several properties in his area that need cleaning. Moeller said the process to have property owners address those problems is long and there is only one code enforcement officer working within the county, but they are working on it.
County resident Frank Egger took a moment to address the crowd about Holliday. His comment focused on a $5,000 donation Holliday received during his run for the Governor’s office. Egger said the man who made the contribution was also somehow involved in the Medicare fraud at the Pearl River County Hospital and Nursing Home.
“I think he’s destroying the integrity of the Supervisors,” Egger said about Holliday.
Stacey Wilkes was first to address claims made by Egger, saying that the alleged fraud occurred during the hospital’s previous administration and that alleged fraud was self reported by the current administration.
Holliday then took a second to address Egger’s accusations.
“To be a public servant, you have to have thick skin,” Holliday said.
Holliday admitted he received a $5,000 contribution from the individual, then he looked at Egger and added, “I’d be a lot more ashamed if you’d contributed to my campaign.”
He also defended the hospital, saying the facility’s emergency room is essential in the north end of the county.
“I had a heart attack and it saved my life. Sorry about that Frank,” Holliday said.
At the end of the meeting Holliday and Lumpkin addressed the need for updated buildings in Poplarville. Lumpkin said the county courthouse will be 100 years old next year, and it’s starting to show its age.
Holliday proposed a solution, which is the same idea proposed by former District I Supervisors Anthony Hales before he left office, to incur a one percent sales tax on prepared food and lodging, which is estimated to bring an additional $600,000 annually. Holliday then asked for a show of hands to gauge the public’s response. A majority raised their hands.