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County Begins Initial Work At Jail Site, Continue Negotiations With Architect

By David Howell

WATER VALLEY –  Although a contract has not been inked to hire an architect for the proposed new county jail, supervisors are taking steps to begin construction following a 5-0 vote to begin site preparation work.

    The decision allowed the employment  of Hill, Lewis and Wrenn, LLC, to perform the site preparation work at the county-owned property donated by Carothers Construction, located south of Water Valley. The vote came at the last county meeting held Friday, October 9.

    District One Supervisor Tommy Vaughn reported that Hill, Lewis and Wrenn, LLC, already had 90 percent of the necessary information from previous work on the property including a recent survey.

    “This is what the architect needs,” Vaughn added. In addition to the survey, this initial work will also include soil testing and other preliminary work.

    The next step will be to hire an architect firm and supervisors have met multiple times with Ferguson and Associates Architects, a firm recommended by the manufacturer of the dome composite material identified by supervisors as the source for a dome jail construction.

    Ferguson and Associates initially quoted a “standard rate” fee, which was 6.56 percent of the total construction bid, plus expenses in a contract presented to the county.

    Following that initial quote, company president G.G. Ferguson fielded questions from county officials in a subsequent board meeting, and agreed to limit additional charges spelled out in the contract presented to the county.

    Supervisors have not made a final decision regarding the employment of Ferguson and Associates.

    Building a new jail has been a familiar topic, and a formal vote  favoring this project came during a September meeting. The new facility, which is planned to house more than 80 inmates, including both state and county prisoners, will replace the 1964 model 24-person jail. The new facility will cost an estimated $2.5 million.

    Other business discussed at recent meetings include:

    Supervisors learned that expenses for the county’s industrial operations fund are running almost $1,500 per month more than revenue. Money in this fund is generated from water sales from the county-owned infrastructure that includes a water tank and pump that feeds Windsor Foods.

    Chancery Clerk Amy McMinn informed supervisors that they needed to transfer money to the account to offset the difference.

    “In February we should be making money down there,” Vaughn said, referring to anticipated increase in Windsor’s water bill, which will be approximately $3,500.    McMinn told supervisors that the current monthly operating expense for the system is around $3,500.

    Supervisors voted to transfer $5,000 to the account to offset the operating expenses in coming months. Supervisors are also expecting increased revenue from water sales to Billy’s Creek Water Association, anticipated to be in the neighborhood of $4,000 per month.

    County officials have been negotiating with Billy’s Creek for two months to work out the details for a temporary contract. Under the agreement, the county will provide water to Billy’s Creek Water Association during a well repair.

    The agreement marks the second time the county has provided water from the county-owned well that services Windsor Foods to Billy’s Creek Water Association on a temporary basis.

    Billy’s Creek Water Association currently operates two wells and has unsuccessfully worked to bring a third well online to keep adequate water pressure for the association’s 740 customers.

    The temporary water agreement is needed to allow maintenance on one of the two tanks operated by Billy’s Creek. Approximately 180 customers will receive water from the county-owned well.

    Supervisors discussed the county’s curbside garbage pickup program following a hearing in which a former county resident had been flagged for an unpaid garbage bill.

    The former resident argued that the county did not provide her a can, but agreed to pay for two months of service after admitting that she lived at the Yalobusha address for that length of time. She also told supervisors that the unpaid bill belonged to her mother, who lived on the same property.

    Following the garbage hearing, the discussion then turned to a bigger concern in the county –  a number of residents do not have a garbage can and are not utilizing the county’s service.

    District Three Supervisor M.H. “Butch” Surrette told supervisors the problem could be easily solved.    

    “You take your tax roll and check it against your garbage roll, you could catch every one of them,” Surrette said. “There is a lot of them out there,” he added.

    “I know,” District One Supervisor Tommy Vaughn agreed, adding that any time a new 911 address is added for a new residence in the county, the garbage department needs to be notified.

    “What we got is people who haven’t had one in 10 years,” Surrette added.    

    “We need to clean up these rolls right now. It has gone too long and it is not fair,” Vaughn said.

    No official action was taken. The county currently contracts with Resourceful Environmental Services, to empty the residential cans each week.

    Supervisors heard an update from Board Attorney John Crow regarding a legal question stemming from the use of the county-owned Multi-purpose building in Coffeeville.

    The question arose after William Shelton, representing the Mississippi Food Bank, questioned a decision by supervisors not to give him exclusive access to the conference room once a month.         

    The Mississippi Food Bank has used the Multi-purpose Building for a number of years to distribute food, but often set up in the lobby area outside the conference room.

    “Regardless of their status, unless they are a governmental agency, you can’t do that,” Crow told supervisors, referring to allowing the Mississippi Food Bank to use the facility without paying. Crow’s report came after he researched the law.

    “It doesn’t make any difference whether it is a not-for-profit,” Crow added.

    Supervisors then examined the user fee policy currently in effect, specifically at the $35 rate that is charged for a non-profit or church use.

    “Any non-profit would be eligible to use it for that low of a price,” Vaughn said, referring to the $35 rate. “That is not much, if people look at the utilities and what it cost us down there, we have to recover some of that money,” Vaughn continued.

    “If you do it for one, you have to do it for all,” Surrette said, adding that he realized that Mississippi Food Bank provides a good service to the county.    


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