| By Billy Davis
Following a New Year’s holiday Monday, Panola County supervisors will meet today in Sardis for their "first Monday" meeting of 2006.
When the board convenes, it will begin the new year with a newly elected board president, $3 million of unobligated money in the bank, and an ambitious plan to pave at least 50 miles of county road in the coming summer.
District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant will lead the board’s agenda, filling a position held by Supervisor Jerry Perkins in 2004 and 2005.
Supervisors voted last month to elect Avant president of the board beginning January 1, replacing a surprised Perkins with the move.
2006 is also the halfway point for supervisors’ four-year terms, giving them roughly a year and a half before county-wide elections in August, 2008.
Avant: rubbish plan
is the pits
In the coming weeks, Avant said, he hopes to lead supervisors in turning down plans for a rubbish pit in the Curtis area west of Batesville, which he represents as county supervisor.
Thanks to the county’s land development ordinance, supervisors have the final say in allowing commercial activity to operate in a residential area.
The county’s land development commission has already turned down the proposal for the rubbish pit.
District 5 Supervisor Bubba Waldrup said he hopes the board of supervisors will work together in 2006.
"If you’re asking what I want to do in the coming year," Waldrup said, "I want to make the board more harmonious."
"I just want people to be open minded and honest, and if we talk to keep it above the table," Waldrup continued, alluding to the secretive plan that handed Avant the president’s post and gave District 3 Supervisor Mack Benson the role of vice president.
Evolution of supervisors job a ‘no-brainer’
The county road department will pave at least 50 miles of gravel roads this summer, said county road manager Lygunnah Bean.
"Our goal is 50 miles – minimum," said Bean.
Plans for 2006 summer paving comes after ambitious paving plans during previous years. In 2005, the county ended its paving in October with 44 miles of gravel roads paved and 28 miles of road resealed.
The county will likely pave its remaining major gravel roads within the next two summers, Bean said earlier this year.
Does that mean the supervisors’ roles will change in coming years?
"That’s a no-brainer," said Waldrup, whose district in the Batesville area was the first to downplay road work as a campaign issue.
"We’re charged with a job, and that job is more administrative and monetary than it once was," Waldrup said.
Asked about the work of the supervisors in 2006, Perkins said economic development is becoming a larger responsibility of the board.
"I’m getting lots of questions about economic development, a lot more than I used to," Perkins said. "We know that the (Panola) Partnership is working hard on that."
On the subject of economic development, Avant stressed that the public’s perception is that supervisors solely oversee county road work.
"We haven’t been road supervisors since 1989, but people think our duties are roads and bridges," Avant said. "We’re supposed to maintain the roads and recruit industry, and both of those improve the quality of life."
Asked if the supervisors are evolving into more of an administrative role, Perkins downplayed the idea that a future board of supervisors will operate more like a board of aldermen.
"It will never come to that as long as you’ve got 1,000 miles of road," Perkins said.
Asked about the changing role of supervisors, Avant suggested that change could come over time.
"Maybe we might be more like aldermen and city government," Avant said. "I don’t know about the (phone) calls they get, but I hear from people looking for jobs and food, wanting water to their homes, and needing housing."
"I don’t see nothing wrong with the way we operate now," Birge said, responding to a question about the supervisors’ role.