Thursday, October 8, 2009
County receives healthy audit
By SUE WATSON
State auditors reported only two findings, both minor, after checking the records of the Marshall County Board of Supervisors and all offices of the county.
Auditor Chris Turnipseed with Watkins, Ward and Stafford, CPA, congratulated the county on a healthy financial report. There were no legal findings.
“Basically, I want to congratulate you on a good audit and to pat Chuck Thomas on the back,” Turnipseed said. “Thank you for the ease of performing the audit.”
After receiving a report of good health, Cathy Brittenum, deputy and school resource officer with the sheriff’s department, summarized grants garnered by the department.
A total of five grants brought $889,656 into the department for public safety improvements this year, Brittenum said.
The department received a $250,000 technology grant from the Department of Public Safety for purchase of surveillance equipment through year 2010. So far, the sheriff’s department has spent about $48,000 from this fund and will spend another $50,000 on items to be ordered soon, she said. The department is reimbursed for its expenditures and the sheriff is spending the funds gradually and waits on reimbursement before spending more funds.
The department received two grants from the U.S. Department of Justice and will purchase nine used cars from the Missouri Highway Patrol, Brittenum said.
A big grant of about $500,000 from the recovery act stimulus monies will be used to pay salaries and fringe benefits for four new officers, buy equipment and outfit officers for duty. The grant requires the sheriff’s department to keep the four personnel on for 12 months after the grant monies have been used or until July 1, 2012, she said.
A fifth grant to replace bullet-proof vests will pay half the cost to outfit officers. The grant for $10,260, has been available for several years. Brittenum said the vests wear out and are eligible for replacement every three years.
Up next was tax collector Betty Byrd who reported delinquent taxes for the year ending September 30, 2009. There was $246,000 in personal taxes not paid on 219 parcels, she said. Mobile home taxes that were delinquent came to $106,201 on 575 mobile homes. The total insolvency report came to $352,984 with $187,000 of that money that would be going to the county fund. Byrd requested, and the board of supervisors approved, filing judgements to collect these delinquent taxes. She said the insolvency report is $50,000 less than the 2008 year ending report.
Byrd requested, and the board approved, giving a tax credit of up to $100 on county vehicle ad valorem taxes to military personnel deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Mississippi Legislature extended a repealer that would have killed the bill September 30, 2009, to 2012 for counties that approve the exemption for service personnel.
Supervisors discussed planning commission concerns with zoning director Conway Moore.
Moore said the planning commission wants owners who purchase three acre or larger lots in subdivisions to ask for an exception to build a barn and board a horse on their lots without placing a home on the lot first.
Supervisor George Zinn III asked how that would affect the ability of a subdivision developer to sell lots.
“We have a lot of people coming out from Memphis and putting a barn for their horses before they build a house,” Moore said.
Supervisor Keith Taylor said there are several instances in his district where individuals are buying lots for their horse with plans to move to the county later after they retire. He said many subdivision covenants do not state that the lot buyer cannot build a barn first.
Supervisor Ronnie Joe Bennett agreed that a lot buyer should have the right to put up a barn first.
Zinn said a person could buy three acres and put it into a pasture.
Bennett agreed with Taylor that such matters of exceptions to put in a barn and horse first should be brought before the elected officials, that is the board of supervisors, rather than the zoning board.
“OK, we will stop the exceptions on three acres or less and you can build your barn,” Moore said. “Some people buy lots to just ride four-wheelers.”
“Some people complain about chickens in our area crowing,” said Zinn.
“I can see both sides,” said Bennett. “No hogs. There’s a lot in my district who have already done it (put up barns only).”
“We don’t need to leave it up to the developer and zoning,” Taylor said.
“We need to get people in here and talk to them and hear about what animals they will house,” said Bennett. “It’s a double edged sword. Developers will say, ‘I can’t sell my land’ and ‘I have people who want to buy and to come live on the lot in 10 years.’ We need to address it. Are you going to have a house there or not? We need to decide what you can and can’t do.”
In the county administrator’s report, Larry Hall said stimulus funds to help extend a sewer line from Chickasaw Trails to a subdivision on Highway 72 hit a snag at the Mississippi Department of Transportation. He said the county’s application was not complete when submitted to DEQ for this first round of funding, but that stimulus monies not spent by February 2010 could become available for the project.
Taylor expressed concern that the design for the project has not nailed down the cost that residents will be charged for sewer service. He said the residents should know what they would be required to pay before the sewer is extended.
Hall said the project costs had not been nailed down because the county would have had to pay for an engineering study without having assurance the funding would be forthcoming.
Attorney Kent Smith said DEQ is concerned how the money will be paid back since the cost to build was several hundred thousand dollars over initial estimates.
Taylor said residents in the old trailer park would not be able to pay more than $25 dollars a month for service and he does not think the taxpayers throughout the county should be asked to bear the cost of construction through extra ad valorem tax millage.
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