Sheriff Alex Hodge talks to a group of mostly supporters gathered at the Jones County courthouse for budget hearings on Tuesday morning. (Photo by Mark Thornton)

Sheriff Alex Hodge talks to a group of mostly supporters gathered at the Jones County courthouse for budget hearings last year. 

Proposed budgets to board July 26; hearings set for mid-August, Sept.

Budgets from department heads should be turned in by the end of the month, Chief Financial Officer Charles Miller told the Jones County Board of Supervisors at their meeting at the Jones County courthouse in Ellisville.

Miller outlined the budget schedule for the board, saying that the deadline for Fiscal Year 2020 proposed budgets to be submitted is July 26. Board budget hearings are set for Aug. 12-15 and the public hearing will be Sept. 3.

That was announced shortly after Sheriff Alex Hodge’s fourth-quarter (July-September) allocation of $1,431,112.75 was acknowledged by supervisors. His budget this year is $5.3 million.

Last year, the sheriff and board had heated arguments about his budget, with Hodge making passionate pleas and a Powerpoint presentation to request a budget of more than $7.3 million. 

It would not be possible to allocate that much for the sheriff’s budget without a tax increase.

Miller said it would take a tax increase of 10 mills to give the sheriff what he asked for, Miller said, and the law only allows for supervisors to raise taxes by 3.5 mills without residents voting for a referendum. A mill represents about $470,000.

“We couldn’t come close to giving him what’s being requested,” he said during last year’s budget battles.

Board President Jerome Wyatt said the money can’t be taken from the general fund “unless he wants to close the library, the museum, parks and recreation ...”

Supervisor Barry Saul pointed out that he and other supervisors don’t get the amounts they need in their budgets every year either.

“The amount it would take to do the things we need every day, it would shock you,” he said. “But if we got that, people couldn’t afford to live here, and this board isn’t going to do that.”

This year’s primary elections are set for Aug. 6 — before the hearings are set and before the public will know how much money Hodge is asking for in the department’s 2020 budget. Hodge is being challenged in the Republican Primary by Macon Davis and Paul Sumrall. The winner of the primary will face Joe Berlin in the general election on Nov. 5.

In a related matter, Hodge got permission to hire three new corrections officers “to replace three at the jail that quit,” he said.

In other business, the board accepted a low bid of $1,256,907.17 from Laurel-based MAGCO, Inc., to replace a bridge on Ellisville-Tuckers Crossing Road. The funds are coming through the BP Oil settlement fund, which is being controlled by the state Legislature. The same fund was used to pay MAGCO for the recently reopened bridge on Lower Myrick Road. 

The Tuckers Crossing bridge, which crosses into the Ellisville city limits, has been closed for months. It is the bridge where the body of an Ellisville man who is believed to have been murdered was found last month.

The board also accepted bids from the following companies that provide materials supervisors use in road-building and maintenance: Coburn and Dial (culverts), Dunn Roadbuilders (bituminous materials), Vance Brothers (slurry seal), McCraney (striping) and Vulcan (stone, slag, rip-rap).

Supervisors also granted utility permits to AT&T for work that’s being done at Ellisville-Tuckers Cross Road and Old Highway 15 South and on Dunbar Street, and to C Spire for work that’s being done on Hall Street and Eastabuchie Road.

At the beginning of the meeting, Larry Griffin of the Pat Harrison Waterway District reminded supervisors to contact him if they have any needs that deal with flood control, drainage or bridge issues.

“Y’all are the biggest supporters (PHWD) has now,” he said. “Tell me what you need, and I’ll fight for it for y’all.”

Griffin said he still has hopes that a reservoir will be built in the area to help with “severe flood issues” and to be a possible recreation destination, referring to a plan that has been talked about for many years.

“There’s not one week that the (Army) Corps of Engineers doesn’t hear about the project,” he said.

Later in the meeting, the board did ask for PHWD’s help with drainage issues on Ole Miss Drive and on the South Jones softball field.

In another matter, Supervisor Barry Saul got permission to clean private property on Jerry Doggett Road after a woman who lived at the residence died of natural causes and her body was found several days later.

“It’s a small, dilapidated house,” Saul said. 

Volunteer firefighters are going to burn the house as a training exercise, then what’s left will be cleared and hauled away, Saul said.

Supervisors also agreed to help out the Laurel-Jones County 6-and-under and 7-and-under all-stars by purchasing advertising in their programs and they agreed to purchase an ad in the Jones College football program.

The next board of supervisors meeting is set for 9:30 a.m. Monday at the Jones County courthouse in Laurel.

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