By David Howell
WATER VALLEY – A lengthy easement process is delaying a bridge replacement on County Road 2, forcing nearby residents to travel as much as 20 additional miles each day.
Supervisors were forced to close the bridge in January after the State Aid Road Inspection’s 2009 inspection report cited numerous safety deficiencies with the structure. The bridge is located near Tillatoba.
The delay, which is marked by several months of no visible bridge replacement activity, prompted two Yalobushians who live nearby to ask supervisors for answers during their “first Monday” meeting held in Water Valley.
“I was wanting to see what the holdup was?” asked Eddie Simmons who explained that a four-mile trip from his house to his farm has turned into a 14 mile trip.
Simmons learned that the county is required to obtain easements to access the private property that joins the bridge where the work needs to be performed. Handling that task for the county is attorney Daniel Martin, who works with Board Attorney John Crow.
“There is a problem with the title to the property where we are going to have easements for the bridge,” Martin explained. “Before we started the expensive project, we had to make sure we had that problem corrected,” Martin continued.
The land surrounding the creek is owned by the Hartley family, and a portion of the land on the creek where the bridge is located was not deeded out following the death of the owner.
“We had to contact the Hartley family, which is extensive,” Martin explained.
The owner, the late Mrs. Clyde Hartley, had seven children, which are living all across the county, Martin elaborated.
“It was a long process getting everybody’s addresses,” Martin added. “We have got the deeds out there to them, and are waiting to get them back.”
“Are you having any trouble getting the ones (deeds) from the ones (family members) living out-of-town, that is the question that has been asked over there?” District Five Supervisor Bubba Tillman asked of Martin. The bridge is located in District 5.
“I haven’t got some of the local deeds, yet, while I have gotten some from out-of-town,” Martin answered. “The sooner we get the deeds, the sooner we can begin construction,” Martin asked.
“Let me ask you something, Daniel, has Mark Hartley signed his deeds?” Crow asked.
“No-sir,” Martin answered.
“Has David Hartley signed his deeds?” Crow also again. Both Mark and David Hartley both live in Yalobusha County.
“No sir,” Martin answered.
“Do they have possession of the deeds they need to sign?” Crow asked.
“Yes sir,” Martin again answered.
“Have they lawyered up?” Crow asked.
“Mr. David Hartley has contacted a lawyer. I have spoke with him. They seem willing to help, but that is all verbal. I have seen no action other that getting the addresses of their relatives. The papers they have had for a month and a half, I haven’t got back yet,” Martin said.
“So as far as the old saying goes, the ball has been in their court for a month and a half,” Crow added.
“What will be your next move if you don’t get anything back?” Simmons asked.
“If we can’t get any of the deeds, we will have to go through the eminent domain process. We weren’t wanting to try to establish that as first because it is more expensive than what we are trying to do now. And also, folks don’t like having their land taken from them in such a manner,” Martin added. “We were wanting to get everyone’s willing consent before we had to step in and just say we have to get it done.”
“So you know where it is all at now?” Tillman asked.
“I know where it is all at now, I will have to visit my neighbors,” Simmons said.
Other business conducted by the board includes:
• Approved a request from Yalobusha County MSU Extension Service Director Steve Cummings to hire
• Approved a request from Yalobusha County Sheriff Lance Humphreys asking for a board order confirming that the county would fund the salary for a new deputy hired under the COPS grant. The board order confirms that the county will pay for one year of a deputies salary, after the grant pays for the first three years for the new deputy.
• Approved a request from Chancery Clerk Daryl Burney to transfer $2,500 into the jury payment account.
“According to the District Attorney and the court administrator, we are probably going to be looking at a couple of trials in Coffeeville in May,” Burney explained. “One of them is an old case. It deals with an alleged murder over in Tillatoba. It is about six years old, we are probably going to bring it to trial.
• Accepted bids from three companies on a backhoe for District Two. Supervisor Amos Sims accepted the bid from Stringer International in the amount of $68,771.40 for a Case backhoe.
• Accepted bids for the lease purchase of a dump truck purchased for District Two. The truck was bought using the state contract price, which was $62,436.84. Hancock Bank’s bid of 3.42 percent interest was approved.
• Approved the purchase of an advertisement in the Mississippi Association of Supervisors magazine after a heated debate. Supervisors Tommy Vaughn and Butch Surrette each aired different opinions about the importance of advertising in the magazine. The ad sizes, considered Monday, is a half a page at $250, full page at $300 and a full page with color at $650.
“I have always been for a full page, color ad. The reason for that is, number one, it is just like giving to yourself because this is our association. Our association and our magazine runs on whatever we can do to help it,” Surrette explained. “Also talking with Derrick, they are planning on getting this magazine to a lot more people than it gets to right now. All the legislators and probably some of the state agencies that haven’t been getting it, like economic development people.”
Surrette’s son, Derrick Surrette is director of the Mississippi Association of Supervisors (MAS), a powerful organization that lobbys for county concerns in Jackson.
Vaughn voiced his concerns, adding he was in favor of the half page ad.
“I am not against funding MAS, I would rather take this money and send it in a check,” Vaughn said.
“That is what you would be doing,” Surrette answered.
“No we wouldn’t. It wouldn’t get to them. We got about 20 counties out of 82 that is taking a picture and putting it in that magazine only us see. I am getting tired of looking at my own picture and spending $600 and something dollars. I would be in favor of a small ad, or no ad and sending a contribution, I would go along with that,” Vaughn said.
A compromised was reached, with a full page add without color being approved.