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County Opts Out Of Building Codes

By David Howell

WATER VALLEY – Supervisors opted out of a new law adopted during the 2014 Legislative Session requiring Mississippi cities and counties to adopt building codes.
    Senate Bill 2378 became law August 1, but counties have 120 days to opt out of the measure, a step supervisors took during the “first Monday’ meeting on August 4 following a short discussion.
    The matter first surfaced in a June meeting when multiple supervisors indicated they would favor opting out of the requirement. The bill requires the adoption of any of the last three editions of the International Building Code or any other codes adopted by the Mississippi Building Code Council.
    “I don’t want to get tarred and feathered my last year,” Board President Tommy Vaughn said during recent discussion, indicating the issue could be contentious. But Vaughn acknowledged adopting a county-wide building code would be beneficial in the future.
    “I think it is a much needed thing, but I am not sure we are ready for it,” District 3 Supervisor Lee McMinn added, but said the county may need to revisit the issue later.
Long Range Plan
     While the building codes are off the table, supervisors indicated interest in  a long-range, comprehensive plan to help shape the county’s future.
    Mike Slaughter outlined the benefits of a 20-year plan during a recessed meeting held last Thursday in Water Valley. He is the founder of Slaughter and Associates, a full-service urban planning firm based in Oxford.
    “I am finding more and more counties are worried about having a plan and having some type of controls in place,” Slaughter told supervisors during a 20-minute presentation. He explained a comprehensive plan outlines how a community wants to grow in terms of future goals, land use distribution, transportation and community facilities. His firm’s work would be performed on a hourly fee basis.
    “Communities can be shaped by chance or can be shaped by choice,” he told county officials. He also said a plan can be the first step in implementing zoning or can stand alone, citing examples that included neighboring Lafayette County with a long-term plan that does not include zoning or Tate County that recently implemented zoning.
    “We are a small county, a rural county and don’t have a lot of extra money to spend,” Vaughn commented after Slaughter’s presentation. But Vaughn noted, a long-range plan could help future supervisors guide the county.
    “As we are elected to these boards, we bring our own vision about where we want our county to go and how we plan for it to get there,” Vaughn added. “But this board changes… I feel like we do need a comprehensive plan that could be a guideline for the people who come behind us to help us get there,” Vaughn continued.
    District 5 Supervisor Frank “Bubba” Tillman asked about input from all of the players in the county.
     “Do you work with the economic development groups and the chamber of commerce?” Tillman asked.
    Citing recent work in Oktibbeha County, Slaughter said a plan had been developed in coordination with hospital and school officials, along with the  chamber of commerce and economic development.
    “We try to leave no stone unturned,” Slaughter stressed.
    Vaughn questioned the details of the plan in relation to future infrastructure needs for the county’s two school districts.
    “We know it is coming, we just don’t know exactly when or how much we need to be prepared for it,” Vaughn said.
    “This comprehensive plan will not be a detailed study of the school systems projecting how many buildings you need and how many students you are going to have,” Slaughter answered. But the plan will include input from the school officials.
    District 3 Supervisor Lee McMinn then questioned how input from the county’s municipalities would shape the plan.
    “How would you incorporate their interests?” McMinn asked.
    “We would invite their leaders to come over or we could have meetings there,” Slaughter answered, also stressing citizen input from each of the three municipalities would be solicited during public meetings that would be scheduled if the county chooses to move forward with the plan.
    “I think we need to do a little more looking into it and talking about it,” Vaughn said as discussion came to a close on the topic.
     “It seems like a good step,” District 2 Supervisor Amos Sims added.

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