Thursday, July 7, 2005

Clerk updates board on voting

By SUE WATSON
Staff Writer

Circuit clerk Lucy Carpenter reported to the board of supervisors last week that plans for changes in voter registration at the state and county level are on target but voting machine requirements set for implementation by Jan. 1, 2006, have not been ironed out.

She said Marshall County’s machines, which are touch-screen electronic machines, would not qualify for the “Help America Vote Act.”

The Secretary of State’s office has asked counties to consolidate precincts that are in close physical proximity as a way of cutting down the number of new voting machines required, Carpenter said.

“We will have the formula to use to determine how many voting machines they (the Secretary of State’s office) will give us and if we require more we will have to pay for them,” she said.

In other business, the board:

  • heard an appeal of Roy Valentine for a zoning variance.

    Valentine said he wanted to rezone 47 acres that he just bought but was turned down by the planning commission. The land is located across Highway 302 facing the Barton Fire Department. He said he wanted to put in an office for his business.

    “I have lived in Marshall County all my life and want my business here,” he said.

    Zoning director Conway Moore reported that all five zoning board members had opposed Valentine’s request because the county has just rezoned the area as Residential Estates. Two people who attended the zoning meeting were opposed to Valentine locating a business office there, she said.

    “The planning commission felt it should be in Chickasaw Park,” Moore said. “They felt it was just rezoned RE and that commercial should wait a while longer.”

    Supervisor Keith Taylor spoke.

    “I spoke to Mr. Valentine on Thursday and told him overwhelmingly the people who live out there do not want it,” he said. “A lot of people won’t come up to meetings (zoning meetings) but they call me. That’s my job.”

    Taylor said many of his constituents in that area “have sunk every penny they have in retirement” in their properties.

    He said even if Valentine located his office somewhere in the back of the property where it would not be seen, if the land were sold or transferred to future owners that there is no guarantee the property would be kept up as nice as he knows Valentine would keep it.

    “I would like a compromise where both parties would win,” he said. “I do work for the public who lives in District 3, including all taxpayers in Marshall County. If I ignore their pleas, I am not doing my job.”

    Valentine asked if his request could be tabled while he worked out another solution; that his property is right across the highway from commercial zoning; and that his property is a half-mile away from any homes.

    “I know it is a half-mile, but if it is rezoned it won’t be a neighborhood anymore,” Taylor said. “I feel like the board allotted enough areas for Commercial 1 and 2. I don’t want to take away from the lifestyle of the people who live out there.’

    Supervisor Ronnie Joe Bennett said the area in that section of the county is experiencing growing pains and to be fair to everyone he does not think zoning changes should be made so soon after the county has adopted a comprehensive zoning plan.

    Valentine asked if he could get a variance for the office building.

    “That’s up to the board, but I’ve got the feel of it that 95 percent of the people were against it,” said Taylor. With that, Taylor motioned and the board voted unanimously to deny Valentine’s appeal for rezoning.

  • approved a grant application to the Mississippi Board of Animal Health “I Care For Animals” car tag program on behalf of Marshall County Humane Society. The funds will be applied to spay/neutering.

    The “I Care For Animals”specialty tag program raises $25 per tag for animal care and $6 per tag for the Mississippi Burn Center, according to Sherry Janssen, Marshall County Humane Society president. The funds the Society is applying for will go to spay/neuter smaller dogs and cats, she said.

    Supervisor George Zinn III asked if the Society could do animal control and Janssen replied that the group does not have the staffing or facilities for animal control. The group puts its emphasis on population reduction as opposed to euthanasia, she said.

  • received words of thanks from W.A. McMillan for installing a public address system in the board room and for scheduling one meeting a month at 5 p.m. Evening meetings are scheduled for the third Monday evening unless the board has to reschedule one for the board to be out of town on business.
  • heard a concern from Clyde Moore who asked why new mobile home buyers must pay taxes pro rata on their new homes while site built home buyers are not billed pro rata for the year they begin occupying their new home. Moore, who is retired, recently sold his home and put a mobile home on another property. He said mobile home buyers should not be discriminated against.

    County tax assessor Ronnie Johnson told supervisors that mobile homes must first be classified as real property and once they are registered and certified to a land roll then they are taxed as real property like site built structures.

    He said the classification procedure is set by state legislation and the statute reads that mobile homes are not classified as real property until January 1 following the year the unit is purchased.

    “It would take some legislation to get it changed,” Johnson said. “It makes a hardship on the elderly and low income (owner).”

    In an interview Wednesday, Johnson elaborated on followup research he has done with the Attorney General’s office.

    “I am going to dig into it and not stop until I get an answer,” he said.

    He said state law does not stipulate clearly whether the local tax assessor has discretion in setting the date of conversion of mobile homes to real property. After checking with various county tax assessors some apply the mobile home tax pro rata and others treat the mobile home tax the same way a site built home is treated immediately, he said.

    Marshall County has taxed mobile homes pro rata for all the years he has worked at the tax office he said.

    “I will abide by the law,” Johnson said. “If the AG tells me it’s at my discretion, I will handle a mobile home like a house if the buyer registers and declares it as real property the same day they buy it.

    “They are not getting the same break as a stick built house. They have paid two tax bills and get their third bill before the house owner gets the first bill.”

    Johnson said Moore came to the board having already paid his tax pro rata but asked only that the statutes be looked at for the benefit of others who also could be retired or on a low income.

    He called Moore’s action “unselfish.”

  • discussed several cleanup complaints on record at the zoning office.
  • heard of several items from Hugh Hollowell, with the Emergency Management and Homeland Security office.

    The board authorized signatures for the Fire Service rebate program, approved a fiscal year 2005 Homeland Security agreement and learned about a new hardware that would link jail management, fire department, sheriff’s case-management systems to a statewide database by 2009 through the 911 system.

    The board approved a bid for equipment to upgrade 911 to improve communications throughout the county. Hollowell said cost figures are needed to budget for the project that is desperately needed.

  • made appointments to the new airport board following a June 13 decision to transfer airport management from the Marshall County Industrial Authority to the Board of Supervisors.

    Appointments are: District 1 - Don Buford; District 2 - Bill Schneller; District 3 - Lonnie Sproles; District 4 - Al Beck; and District 5 - Danny Tate.

  • authorized extension of a deadline for completion of fencing at community center walking trails for 90 days. The board expects to purchase playground equipment for the centers with remaining funds in the grant.
  • approved bids for county road and bridge supplies and authorized the chancery clerk to pay claims.

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