Thursday, May 1, 2008
Stone, board talk funding
By SUE WATSON
The Mississippi Legislature found dollars scarce this year for funding bond bills and other projects, according to Sen. Bill Stone, who provided a legislative update for Marshall County supervisors last week.
Out of about $200 million requested in bonds, the Legislature approved $97 million and de-authorized $95 million, he said.
Nevertheless, Stone said he thinks the Legislature “had a pretty good year.”
“The half million dollars for road projects is not what we wanted or needed,” he said. “In the current climate, I think we were lucky to get that.”
The county had sought just over $2 million in bond money to overlay the Highway 4 bypass north of Holly Springs. The bypass interconnects Highway 7 North, Highway 4 East and Highway 311 to Highway 178 and U.S. 78 west of the city limits, to provide a truck route.
Stone thanked Rep. Kelvin Buck for giving an assist critical to getting the money (half million) for the overpass.
Stone said the county could ask the Mississippi Department of Transportation for bond dollars.
The local delegation was able to keep bond money intact for a crisis center (or alcohol and drug rehabilitation center).
“It was on the chopping block,” Stone said.
All local and private bills the county had asked for survived, including money for the Northeast Mississippi Community Services, Stone said.
Supervisors and county administrator Larry Hall commended Stone on his first term in the state senate.
County engineer Larry Britt said two bills that affect the Local System Bridge Program (LSBP) passed in the Legislature.
HB 658 allows counties to request dollars to purchase rights-of-way or to use for utility services such as the cost of moving a water or sewer line, Britt said.
HB1452 increases the dollars that can be spent on engineering fees from 10 percent to 12 percent, he said.
Criteria for obtaining extra funds to purchase rights-of-way or pay for utility changes become available July 1.
The board addressed other business which included:
Haulers would be required to notify the zoning department before initiating a project so the county road manager can provide the best and shortest route that will carry heavy truckloads (84,000 pounds) to a state road that is constructed to handle such weights.
Board attorney Kent Smith, who researched the statutes, said he found “nothing in the law that says a county cannot require a bond.”
“Haulers can be routed or they can be fined, or the county can stop them from operating; or if weather is bad, the road manager can limit access,” Smith said.
Supervisor Keith Taylor, who asked for the research, said some haulers want to use county roads to enter and leave work sites when shorter routes to a state-maintained road are available. He said silt erodes and stops up ditches when wood cutters or miners tear up the soil with heavy equipment or loads.
“They do not have the right to damage roads and stop up our ditches,” Taylor said. “We have to spend taxpayer dollars to fix them.”
Smith said state laws give boards of supervisors power to bring a lawsuit to collect damages to roads. “But we will have a hard time proving damages unless they haul over 84,000 pounds and we can prove it.
“I would recommend an ordinance mandating across-the-board (uniform treatment) for all agricultural products.”
Supervisor Willie Flemon asked if truckers could be excluded from hauling during winter to keep down all the mud that is tracked into the road.
Taylor cited a recent case where he saw a bulldozer being unloaded on Bubba Taylor Road. The dozer spun around and tore up the road, he said.
Hall recommended implementing a procedure whereby the county engineer would evaluate existing roads and recommend a bond value once haulers have requested a permit at zoning.
Supervisor George Zinn III brought the matter up, saying complaints are coming in about disturbances at the Victoria Community Center.
“Do we normally require supervision (of youth)?” he asked.
Hall said minors are not given a key to use the centers but adults sometimes request a key for minors to hold parties. He has not had many complaints regarding disturbances, he said.
The community centers and grounds are checked after events for evidence of alcohol or drug use, he said. If found, the adult who rented the space will not be allowed to rent again. Cost to rent the center is $20.
Supervisor Ronnie Joe Bennett said he thinks the centers should be used for governing bodies or for things “as long as it is something constructive for the community.”
“For something like a neighborhood watch meeting,” suggested Dickerson.
“I think we need to require a bond,” said Zinn.
“They were founded for free community activities, not for parties and making money,” Bennett added.
Hall said supervisors could shut the centers down since they belong to the county.
He said use of the centers for funerals was a good use.
“And for church banquets,” said Zinn.
Flemon restated his concern about alcohol.
“If you continue the present policy, I think you will have to have officers on duty or off duty to check on the centers,” Dickerson said.
Hall said a set of rules is provided to renters but not all adhere to the rules.
“It’s hard to draw the line,” he said. “You have rules and they may not follow them. A walk-through by officers would stop it.”
Dickerson offered to patrol if given schedules when centers are open.
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