Board of Supervisors asks municipalities to waive grants

By PAT BROWN,

Simpson County, still plagued with a dilemma concerning labor provided by state inmates to the county and to local municipalities, has asked  those municipalities to give up their recreation grants to compensate for a lower prisoner service fee.

The municipalities in Simpson County and others such as Mize and New Hebron in surrounding counties have been using state inmates housed in Magee to help provide their city services.  Unless interlocal agreements are approved,  the surrounding communities are going to be out of luck. 

 Simpson County is authorized to hold 30 state inmates, but the number actually varies around 20 at this point.  After receiving notice that the work center in Magee was closing, the Simpson County Board of Supervisors agreed that they could take an additional 20 inmates in the county jail.

The 30 authorized inmates the county has been using provide labor for county properties as well as D’Lo Water Park and Legion Lake.  They provide cleaning services for the county building as well as work in the Solid Waste Department and with the Road Department. 

Originally, the state provided the county with a fee for providing room and board to state prisoners, but the state no longer pays that fee. In addition, the county is responsible for any healthcare cost of the inmates in their custody. 

The only agreement from the state now is that the state will give a 30-day notice if state prison authorities decide to move prisoners out of the county.

Simpson County had been charging the municipalities $25 for each prisoner sent from their city to be housed in the county jail. The City of Magee is the only municipality in the county with its own jail. 

Following a meeting with County Administrator Rhuel Dickinson, the mayors of Magee, Braxton, D’Lo and other county groups decided that to offset the county’s cost for keeping municipal prisoners, the municipalities would waive recreation program grants that were being provided to them by the county. Eliminating the grants would provide some compensation to the county for housing municipal prisoners.

Grant amounts which will be lost are $5,000 to the town of D’Lo, $5,000 to the town of Braxton, $10,000 to Magee and $12,500 to Mendenhall. 

As part of the compromise the state inmates will be available for the reduced amount of $10 each per day.  Supervisors said this would help the smaller municipalities, who would not be able to afford the $25 fee, which must be the same for all parties. 

In other business, the board approved a resolution in conjunction with Keep Simpson County Beautiful.  A  clean up day will be held for Mendenhall on May 5.  Magee’s clean up day is set for May 12, and  Braxton’s day is set for April 14. 

LauraLyn Barr represented Magee in the discussion, Mendenhall was represented by Martha Stubbs and Donnie Caughman represented the remainder of Simpson County. 

The board then heard from County Road Manager Ben Warren, who gave an update on county bridges,18 of which were closed during the summer.  He said 12 are currently repaired and reopened, three are being repaired, one was being addressed by State Aid and two would be repaired with the placement of culverts. 

The board then discussed whether Ascentium, the company owned by Lackey Hospital services which acquired the Pioneer facility in Magee, would qualify for the ad valorem exemption that was granted for Pioneer Health when it was established in Magee.  It was reported that Ascentium had not requested the exemption.   Board attorney Danny Welch said he would  the issue because Ascentium did not acquire the property but is leasing the property, which is owned by Trustmark Bank.  The other building that Pioneer was occupying when it declared bankruptcy was owned by Regions Bank.  There was question as to whether the exemption would apply.  According to Welch, had the business been purchased the exemption could have been transferred.  Welch was to report his findings back to the board.

The board authorized the county administrator to determine the best bid for the purchase of  a new chassis for a garbage truck between a bid from Burroughs in the amount of $100,525 or one from Tri State at $103,700. 

The board authorized the purchase of chairs for circuit court with the anticipation of a court order in the amount of $2,179 if they did go ahead and act. 

The board is considering the purchase of additional body cameras for the  Sheriff’s Department at a cost of $22,000 the first year, $8,000 the second year and $8,000 the third year.  The board tabled discussion but approved the renewal of ITI software for $12,951. 

The board approved moving Amanda Weathersby to full-time dispatcher, Shane Steele to certified part-time dispatcher, and Crystal Scarborough to full time dispatcher. 

The board approved the purchase of two new front end loaders at $7,521.38 each and two root grapples at $3,685.90.  These are under state contract so no bid is required. 

The rate of pay for an election commissioner was increased to $100 per day and $150 during the actual election.  There is also a change in terms of service that will allow for commissioners to rotate from the commission and  not all go out of service on the same year. 

The next meeting of the Board of Supervisors is set for April 16.