Bridge closed

Residents will not see tax increase

Supervisors will get up to $10 million to replace or repair bridges and roads as soon as possible, and residents will not face a tax increase with their plan.

The board agreed to move forward with a bond resolution, the terms of which will be published in the legal ads of the Leader-Call, then will be subject to protest in a public hearing next month before moving forward.

The plan is to proceed with work that needs to be done without waiting on internet gambling money that will be flowing into the county starting next fiscal year — about $920,000 per year, Chief Financial Officer Charles Miller said.

That money will be used to pay the debt of the bond issue, which is “not to exceed” $10 million, if it’s determined that it’s OK to do so. That money can’t be used as collateral, though, because it’s not guaranteed money, Miller said. 

The county will, however, be paying off $1.4 million in old bonds over the next two fiscal years, so that will free up some funds, Miller added.

Michael Russ of the Butler Snow law firm in Jackson, who handles bonds for the board, said he “thinks the county can use those funds to pay debt service on bond funds, but we need more clarity.”

Russ proceeded with drawing up the resolution and advised the board to come up with an amount, and for county engineer Ronnie Clark to make a list of prioritized projects.

Supervisor Barry Saul made a motion that the board authorize a bond issue for up to $10 million for infrastructure repair, and he proposed that money be used only on non-State Aid roads and that incoming State Aid funds be used only on deficient bridges that are on State Aid roads. State Aid is a division of the Mississippi Department of Transportation that maintains some high-traffic county roads. The board adopted his motion unanimously.

In another bridge matter, Clark asked the board to rescind the awarding of a contract for work on a bridge on Lower Myrick Road because, as designed, bids came in at 30 percent over the estimate. Clark warned in an earlier meeting that was happening all around the state because the influx of money from the Legislature and BP has increased work that’s being done and keeping companies that are doing that work and materials in short supply.

He suggested a redesign and rebid to cut costs and the board agreed. Saul asked how much more time that would add to the project and Clark said it would be about four months.

“That’s the highest-traffic road in Beat 3,” Saul said. 

Supervisor Johnny Burnett got permission to move waterlines so a bridge job on Sharon-Moss Road can be completed.

Chief Administrative Officer Danielle Ashley told the board that State Aid is once again asking for supervisors’ help to get residents with steel, brick or other substantial mailbox enclosures to make sure they are at least 10 feet off the roadway.

“They don’t want hazards that could cause serious injuries if someone runs off the road,” Clark said.

Supervisors said they had helped move some mailboxes, but the state agency was looking for the best way to notify all residents of the policy. The board authorized Ashley to send out a letter.

“If we move one to 10 or 11 feet, and someone hits it and gets hurt, are we liable?” Burnett asked.

In another matter, Miller updated the board on Sheriff Alex Hodge’s budget. He reported that, two months into the fiscal year, the sheriff is $53,000 over budget on expenditures, but he is $113,000 over budget on revenue, so he’s a net of about 18 percent under budget.

“Good job, Sheriff,” board President Jerome Wyatt said.

In other business, the board unanimously agreed to:

• Signing the Mississippi Association of Supervisors’ resolution to allow electricity cooperatives to become providers of broadband internet service;

• Re-authorize the Calhoun Volunteer Fire Department to re-advertise one of its firetrucks for sale;

• The donation of leave time to an employee in the Garbage Department;

• The $100 purchase of a full-page ad for the Jones County Pine Belt Pageant at Northeast Jones.

The meeting opened with Sheila Benson singing a stirring rendition of “O, Holy Night” and the reading of the Christmas story by Brother Brent Benson of Salem Heights Baptist Church. He said that supervisors and all people would do well to do what the shepherds did the night the Savior was born in a manger in Bethlehem: “Then let Jesus be your guide.”

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