Housing task force moves forward
The Marshall County Housing Task Force will be getting traction in June.
The stakeholders will put together bankers and lenders to work on financial planning for the project, county consultant Gary Anderson told the board of supervisors.
The group will also visit some industries to see if they have employees who may be interested in buying a home in Marshall County and living here as opposed to commuting.
District 3 supervisor Keith Taylor said he is trying to assist with the ARISE2Read program in the schools in Byhalia and at H.W. Byers. He wants to buy the books with his share of money the board sets aside for supervisors.
“Our goal is to get it in all county schools,” Taylor said. “We will start in Byhalia.”
County consultant Gary Anderson said preliminary test scores are impressive in the Byhalia schools.
Supervisors then took up their individual district concerns.
George Zinn III is still trying to get a pad for a roll-off dumpster at the Chulahoma Community Center. But there has been too much rain to get on the project.
County administrator Larry Hall suggested the roll-off dumpster that was set out for Spring Cleanup be left there and workers keep the area clean around it until a pad can be poured.
“You can get quotes or we can pour it ourselves,” Hall said.
Zinn asked Hall to help clean and bush-hog at the old Rosenwald School building in District 4.
District 1 supervisor Charles Terry asked that culverts be unstopped at two properties on Moore Road. He asked for a board order that would divert water to stop the gravel from the driveways from filling the culverts.
One of Terry’s constituents asked supervisors to open up Shipp Lane so the property owner could get access to 32 acres situated on the north side of the railroad tracks.
Hall said the railroad wanted the county to assume all the liability and the property manager put up a gate blocking the road.
“She wants access to build on the north side, and says if we get the board to open it up, she will get with the railroad (to fix the crossing). There is no other way in but over the railroad.”
Zinn asked if supervisors need to make sure no other parties are involved as far as title and ownership. The owner has eight acres on either side of Shipp Lane and the rest is over the tracks.
The board passed a motion to take care of the matter of opening the road up.
“The road is in good shape,” said District 5 supervisor Ronnie Joe Bennett.
Shipp Lane connects to Highway 178 at Yarbrough Loop in Red Banks.
District 2 supervisor Eddie Dixon reported on a North Mississippi Planning and Development District meeting in Biloxi. He said attendees repeatedly asked how Marshall County has won all this industrial park development. Dixon said he told them that over the years it happened with county/state/planning development district partnerships and new highways coming in.
“It was a good session,” Dixon said. “I enjoyed it.”
Taylor raised rural fire department issues.
He suggested the fire chiefs be invited to the board of supervisors’ meetings to air out any concerns they have about funding and the topic of adding a new fire station in the Chickasaw Trail Industrial Park area that could have paid firefighters.
All 11 rural fire departments are operated by volunteers.
“We owe it to the volunteer fire departments to listen to them. They have lots of needs,” he said. “I hear the radio equipment is not working and a lot of turnouts are not compliant. We are here to help them, not to hurt them. We’re being criticized all over the county. I want them to come up here and talk it out.”
Terry said he was told the fire chiefs vote on where equipment goes.
“Are they not all using the same radios?” Zinn asked.
Taylor said some of the radios were out since a tower was taken out during the tornado of December 23, 2015.
Some departments are now on the MSWIN (Mississippi Wireless Information Network). The Holly Springs fire and police departments, the sheriff’s department and Byhalia are on the MSWIN system, Taylor said.
Stacey Reed, E-911 director for the county, said some departments use both the old and the new radio system. She said dispatch sets off calls to three fire departments to come work a structure fire, and if local fire departments do not respond then dispatch sends out an All Call.”
She said some volunteer firefighters do not want to be awakened during the middle of the night because they have to go to work in the daytime.
Zinn said some rural departments do not get new fire trucks when they want them, but he thinks the radios should all be supplied evenly across all departments.
“They (the chiefs) meet, agree, then tell it to Hugh (Hollowell) and he presents it to the board,” Taylor said.
Reed said the county’s repeater for the county fire radio system was located on a cell phone tower that was blown down in the tornado. The repeater for fire dispatch was moved to the tower at Eddie Lee Smith Drive but there are too many hills and valleys for the radios to cover the entire areas.
“MSWIN is a state radio system,” Reed said, “But the radios, portables and mobiles are expensive.” They were priced at $5,000 but now the price is down to $3,000.
“The dual system for dispatch is a nightmare, even with Holly Springs. They are running a dual system and rely on the old system with pagers.”
Sheriff Kenny Dickerson said his department got on the MSWIN system at a cost of $400,000, but the system was paid for out of the tobacco lawsuit money and cost Marshall County taxpayers nothing.
Reed said the 911 radio system is old and needs to be upgraded but the systems are so expensive. The fire department radio systems need to be upgraded, she said.
“We are growing and we can keep pushing it down the road or get our heads together,” he said. “We’ve been knowing 911 was behind for 10 years.”
He commended Reed for working under outdated system conditions.
“We all know we have to do it,” he said.
“Who gets the firetruck this year?” asked Taylor.
“Barton got an upgrade in rating,” Zinn said. “Did they get equipment? David Cook did a similar thing at Bethlehem. It takes manpower and the waterline sizes (capacity) helps get the rating up.”
Taylor noted that some departments respond and some do not.
“It looks like radio issues and firetruck issues,” said Terry. “We need to get centralized - a fire station in the county.
“The fire chiefs were getting the message we were going to get a primary fire station and they thought they were going to be overlooked. We’re trying to do what will help everybody.”
Anderson said there was a grass fire at his place and Barton and Cayce fire departments arrived first.
“You are in their areas,” Reed said.