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Redistricting Triggers Side Issue At Monday’s Supervisors Meeting

By David Howell


COFFEEVILLE –  A side issue that surfaced during the redistricting debate created much of the tension at Monday’s supervisors meeting when District 3 Supervisor M.H. “Butch”  Surrette told supervisors that changing the district lines could affect the amount of money each beat receives from the bridge tax levy.

    He was referring to the current system used in Yalobusha County, which divides the total bridge levy in the county by the number of bridges in each beat.

    With the bridge formula used in the county, districts 1 and 5 receive the most bridge money – District 1 receives 26 percent while 5 receives 28 percent. Both districts also have the most road miles.

    District 2 and 4 receive the least amount of the bridge levy, each receiving 13 percent. District 2 also has the least road miles, with approximately 60 miles. District 3 receives 20 percent of the total bridge levy. A separate levy for roads is divided equally between the beats.

     With the redistricting, the beats that need to add population would likely gain more roads and bridges, and would be entitled to a larger percentage of the total bridge tax levy.

    “If you are going to redistrict, you need to take that in consideration because it is going to change,” Surrette explained. He also told supervisors it should have been changed 10 years ago, following the 2000 redistricting.

    “That never was addressed in 2000. As far as I am concerned, when you redistrict, you got to go back to 2000 and then come on up to 2010. If you are not addressing that, then this board is not doing their duty,” Surrette explained.

    “It really should have been redone 10 years ago,” Surrette reiterated, implying that the number of bridges in each beat had not been counted since 1990. This would mean that since 2000, when the beat lines were changed, the money has not been divided equally.

    “All you are going to be doing is counting the bridges. Willis (Engineering) handles all that part. We divide that (bridge) money into that percentage,” District 5 Supervisor Frank “Bubba” Tillman answered.

    “Everybody knows that bridge money, it don’t make a hill of beans. All of these bridges are built by grants and everything else,” District 1 Supervisor Tommy Vaughn reminded supervisors.

    “That’s right,” Surrette agreed.

    “The (bridge) money is spent on county roads. Those miles of roads you got. If you break it down into bridges, or convert that over to county roads you are going to get the same split. George (Suggs) will have a little bit more than Butch if we do that, but that is the way it works. I am willing to do it any way you want to do it,” Vaughn said.

    “It ought to be done like the order says it should be done,” Surrette countered.

    “You spend very little of your road money for bridges,” Vaughn continued, referring to the road tax levy.

    “That’s right, very little of it. That’s the reason y’all are winding up with $300,000 over a period of 20 years,” Surrette explained, referring to the surplus that Vaughn and Tillman have accumulated.

    “Naw, it could be management, Butch. It could be management,” Tillman said. “I could blow a bunch of money that I don’t blow. I am not going to get into all that. I am saving my money and using it when I have to. Don’t start that,” Tillman said, as voices were raised.

    “I am telling you something,” Surrette countered.

     “You ain’t telling me nothing. I know what is going on,” Tillman continued.

    If it’s going to be redistricting done, we are going to back up and do it like it ought to be done,” Surrette said.

    “I know what you are bringing up things for,” Tillman said.

     “That is because it is not done right. It had not been done right in a long time,” Surrette continued.

    “You have been out here a long time that it has not been done right then,” Tillman countered, as voices remained raised.

    “That’s right. I have been against it,” Surrette.

    “Apparently the rest of the board must have thought you didn’t know what you were talking about,” Tillman said.

    “Naw, the rest of them didn’t. Some of them. I am just telling you that if you are going to redistrict, that has got to be changed,” Surrette said.

    “That’s no problem,” Vaughn said.

    “That’s right, I could get some more (road) money if we are going to break it down into mileage,” Tillman argued.

    “Naw, we are not going to do it road money, we are doing it bridge stuff. Remember?” Surrette responded.

      “I can’t help it that I got all the bridges, my God,” Tillman said.

    “My goodness,” Surrette said.

     “The supervisor before me, he seen that he got bridges built. I know where bridges are not being built that could have been built. I am through with that, now, don’t start,” Tillman said.

    “Naw,” Surrette said.

    “Are you going to do anything with the redistricting?” Tillman continued.

     “I am going to do what I want to do,” Surrette answered.

    “You do what you want to do, Butch,” Tillman continued. “Are you going to uphold the thing (oath of office) when you swore that you are going to abide by the laws?” Tillman asked.

    “I am going to do what I think is right,” Surrette said.

    “Do what you think is right and I hope the rest of them (supervisors) do to,” Tillman continued as the conversation returned to a normal tone.

    “That’s up to the rest of them. But that is just something I am going to be looking to address,” Surrette said. “I know you don’t like it, but that’s all right with me.”

    “I tell you something, I am going to do what I think is right for the people of Yalobusha County. Because I could bring up lots of things, but I am not going to do that,” Tillman said.

     “I would just let it loose, Bubba, I would bring ‘em up if I was you,” Surrette said.

    “Naw, I don’t need to bring ‘em up. I think I have said enough, but you touched my nerve there, Butch,” Tillman explained.

    “Well look, if you got something else to bring up, bring it up,” Surrette advised.

     “Well you start criticizing. I know what you said about other things, but that is beside the point. Let’s move on with the redistricting, Amos, I am going to leave it up to you and George, whatever y’all want to do,” Tillman said.

     He was referring to the minority supervisors at the table who have greater impact on the redistricting because part of the process requires U.S. Department of Justice approval with merit given to the change of minority population in the two districts.

    “Nobody is excited about this. But this is what it has come to, we have to do it. Some things are not easy, you just have to step up and do it,” Board President Amos Sims said.

    “That’s right, some things are not easy,” Surrette agreed.

    “So we are open for a motion,” Sims advised.

    “I would suggest your motion be to employ Stennis,” Board Attorney John Crow advised, referring to the John C. Stennis Institute of Government. Crow said Stennis would look at balancing the population in the beats and increasing the minority population in beats 2 and 4, because they have dropped.

    “I am going to make that motion,” Vaughn said.

    “And I am going to second that motion,” Tillman said.

    “I vote no. I just can’t see wasting $8,000 of taxpayers money

on something that is almost frivolous,” Surrette said, referring to the estimated cost of redistricting.

   “It is better than wasting $75,000 fighting lawsuits,” Vaughn countered.

  “It will never happen,” Surrette said.

  “John said it did,” Vaughn said, referring to an earlier conversation in which Crow reminded supervisors that the county had been sued in the mid 1980s after not redistricting.

    “No, John said it was $25,000,” Surrette said, referring the legal fees paid by the county in the 1980s lawsuit.

    “It is a lot of difference between $75,000 and $25,000,” Surrette continued.

    “There is a lot of difference between $5,000 and $25,000,” Vaughn joked, referring to the difference in the estimated cost of employing Stennis and the former lawsuit bill.      


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