Thursday, Januar 19, 2012
Randolph briefs board; rezoning issue surfaces
By SUE WATSON
Donald Randolph, outgoing superintendent of education for the county school district, thanked supervisors for their cooperation during his eight years in office at the last board meeting of 2011.
He also provided a brief overview of progress and a financial report.
The financial outlook in terms of ad valorem tax receipts for the last months of the 2011 year was on the down side compared to the same time in 2010.
Revenues were down $31,867 in August compared with August 2010, he said, down $34,458 in September, down $7,000 in October and down $17,637 in November as compared to 2010.
That comes to about $90,961 short in collections from last year to be collected for the 2011-12 budget of $3,961,187, Randolph said. January/February are the peak collection months, then another shot in the arm comes in the August tax sale.
Randolph said ad valorem taxes came in better for the first six years of his time in office but have been irregular the last two years.
“The biggest part of ad valorem is from new construction, but now it has just stopped,” he said. “We have no new construction.
“One comment for the future – I think our shortfall this year will be as large or larger than last year. At some point in time, I think you will have to make a decision on raising it (the mill rate). That number will be larger again this year if the economy stays like it is.
“We will see y’all on the street. You were my ally and I appreciate it.”
Next up, supervisors took up a request from the developer of Valley Oak Subdivision on Red Banks Road to convert his 34-lot subdivision back to agricultural zoning.
Supervisor Keith Taylor worried that the county would be required to keep up an unfinished subdivision road which has only the first one-and-a-half inches of asphalt laid. If the county approved rezoning back to agricultural, the developer could see-saw back and forth and have to plat it again to sell more lots.
Zoning director Conway Moore said if the county allowed the subdivision to be rezoned, the approximate 119 acres could be subdivided for larger lots and the road would be privately maintained.
Supervisor Ronnie Joe Bennett asked if cows would be turned out into the unfinished subdivision streets.
Moore provided the tax differential. The owner would pay about $425 in taxes if the county lets the owner rezone, compared to $11,323 for the lots. The $425 would not take effect until 2012 taxes are due (Feb. 2013), she said.
“He still will have to pay the 2011 taxes.
“We have had subdivisions rezoned back to agricultural, but we have not had anybody go this far and rezone back,” she said.
“He would have to submit another plat if he was allowed to bring it out of subdivision and decided at a later date to put it back into a subdivision.”
Supervisor George Zinn III asked how the property could be handled, if rezoned agricultural.
“In my opinion, they would have to recheck the road,” Moore said. “A person could go to the end (of the property) and buy 50 acres and use it as a private road (and the road would not be county maintained).”
“If we do not allow, what would he do?” asked supervisor Willie Flemon (who retired from office effective December 31, 2011).
Bennett answered that the owner would still pay the $11,000 and can sell as many lots as he wishes after the road is brought up to county standards. He added that this fiscal year’s budget already counts on the ad valorem tax for the property as a subdivision. It would be hard to make up a shortfall of $11,000, he said.
Flemon motioned to table the matter and the motion passed unanimously.
Later in the meeting, attorney Bill Schneller joined the meeting to discuss Valley Oaks subdivision. The owner is his client and has already filed a lawsuit, he said.
Smith explained that the county tax base is the issue and if the property sells, the county would want to know if it is under obligation to maintain the unfinished subdivision street.
“Sooner or later, somebody is going to drive on that non-street,” county road manager Larry Hall said.
Schneller said his client would not likely try to market the property as small lots and the road would become a private road until the county assumes responsibility for it.
Schneller was advised the board had tabled the matter until January.
Smith said he wants to look at the lawsuit and be ready to discuss the matter the first of the year.
Schneller said the matter would require a publication and the county could ask for a continuance.
Zinn brought up the topic of hunting on subdivision property – empty lots. Some of his constituents had complained about it in the area of Bennett Circle, he said. He asked Moore if covenants would address the issue or if the developer could bring it up with subdivision members.
Board attorney Kent Smith advised that it is legal to hunt outside city limits in the county. Then constituents should check to see if their subdivision covenants say no hunting. If covenants say no hunting, then it is the matter of a civil suit, he said.
“It is my understanding we adopt the subdivision covenants but this board has no authority to enforce a covenant,” Smith said. “It’s for the citizens in a subdivision or the developer to sue that individual through the civil courts. If there is no covenant there, the developer could get it placed on there with the participation of the homeowners.”
In case of poachers hunting on someone else’s land, the game warden could be called in to stop the hunting, Smith said. The developer could also be sued for allowing hunting, if it violates the covenants. The person with the complaint would have to hire an attorney, he said.
Supervisor Eddie Dixon said a person in his district had called dispatch for a medical problem and both county ambulances were out on calls. Benton County’s ambulance was dispatched but could not find the road number because the GPS (global positioning system) is not accurate, he said.
“It took an hour and 15 minutes for the ambulance to get there,” he said, because drivers in Benton County were not familiar with the Marshall County roads and took the long way around.
“The GPSs in the county are all wrong and are a mile or more off,” Jimmy Warren said.
He indicated how far off the GPS was at the sheriff's office and at his house on Highway 7 South.
“How do you update it?” asked Larry Hall, county administrator.
“It’s not perfected,” said Chuck Thomas, chancery clerk.
“When I’m in Memphis, I go off a landmark I know (rather than GPS),” Hall said.
“It (GPS) just gets you close to where you are supposed to be,” Thomas said.
“Who is responsible for it?” Zinn asked.
“The federal government subsidizes it,” Hall said.
“People who type in our address (zoning’s address) end up at the old Walmart,” Moore said.
“Is it a nationwide problem?” asked Thomas.
“There’s always more than one way to get there,” Hall said. “They route you around.”
“It can save lives,” Dixon said.
“People in ambulances would not know the area, if they are from outside the county,” Hall said.
Rep. Tommy Woods visited the board to discuss the 2012 legislative session.
“I want to know if there is anything y’all will need before we go to the big house,” he said. “Everything (leadership) is brand new from the top down. We are short of money.”
Thomas said the county may need some legislative help with garbage issues.
Supervisor Keith Taylor said Mayor Phil Malone has a resolution before the highway commission to ask that 309 be paved in a couple of spots.
He said a pipe needs replacing where a fatality occurred.
“I would request the state pave that stretch,” he said.
The board passed a motion to ask for state help on the road due to safety concerns.
“The road is in bad shape,” Woods said. “I could call the commissioner (of transportation) or engineer (Mississippi Department of Transportation) and see if they can speed it up. Especially since Fred’s store is there. And we need a light at Stonewall Road and 309. It gets more and more congested when people get off work at Thomas & Betts and on Fridays when people are coming to Seafood Junction and to Fred’s after work hours.”
“My main concern is the railroad situation at Byhalia and Potts Camp,” Taylor said. “There are long lines waiting for trains and people not familiar with the area top the hill and run right up on the tracks.”
Woods said MDOT does not think there is room to elevate the road at the 309 intersection at the tracks.
“If we had an overpass within a half mile, it would help,” Bennett said.
Woods said people were promised help in the past if more jobs were added, but the promises were not kept, especially in connection with the arrival of Thomas & Betts.
“We need an overpass at 178 and the railroad and if it came out at Bubba Taylor Road, it would work well,” Woods said.
He said Republicans now have a majority in both houses which means there will be a big change in leadership. Woods said he would chair a committee for the first time in a while.
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