Como Meeting

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Post-election, Como officials tackle laundry list of topics

By John Howell Sr.

Como’s mayor and aldermen established a committee to liaison with a former resident who wants to sponsor a “give back” day.

Mayor Judy Sumner told aldermen that she had been contacted by Northwestern University School of Law student Latasha Jackson who asked for a vacant field, portable toilets and police security on July 31. In return, Jackson will provide refreshments, entertainment, beauticians to cut children’s hair in preparation for back to school and school supplies, the mayor said.

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“This town has been so supportive of her she just wants to give back,” the mayor said.

Sumner told the other city officials about the request during her report at the Thursday at the monthly meeting of the mayor and aldermen, deferred until Thursday, June 4, because of the June 2 General Election which completed the return of all incumbents to their posts.

They were all there Thursday — Aldermen Forster Ruhl, Bill Mitchell, Ruby Higgenbottom, Everette Hill, and Clark Gregory, in addition to the mayor. They voted unanimously to allow the mayor to establish a committee to coordinate with Jackson’s plans.

It was a nuts and bolts meeting — the report from Fire Chief Randy Perkins was delayed after he rushed out to join other volunteers in response to a fire alarm and gas operator Tommy Rayburn described sewer problems that had left him uncertain about whether they had been caused by willful vandals or plain ignorance.

Como town officials and citizens heard North Delta Planning and Development District (NDPDD) Program Specialist Chris Gordon offer his agency’s assistance in seeking federal and state grants.

“At North Delta we’re reaching out to all our entities,” Gordon said.

Gordon asked for aldermen’s permission to seek a municipal rehabilitation grant for Como.

“I have talked to other mayors who are using this and who have applied,” Sumner told aldermen.

Following questions about any potential cost or liability to the town, aldermen voted 4 to 1 to authorize NDPDD to seek the grant.

“We’ve gone through this before and we never got it,” Ruhl said, explaining his “nay” vote.

Aldermen gave interim Police Chief Mike Davis permission to employ two officers as substitutes during his absence and the absence of officer Earl Burdette. Both men are deputies of the Panola County Sheriff’s Department who work part-time on the Como Police Department. They will be attending schools and military training during the summer, Davis said.

Aldermen unanimously approved the hiring of Darnell Webster, a Tunica County Deputy Sheriff, and Panola Deputy Sheriff Edward Dixon during the men’s absences.

Davis reported investigations involving to major crimes. One is an attempted rape, he said.

“The other one is going to be dealing with the campaign,” the police chief added.

Davis also requested additional security from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. on Como’s Main Street on Friday and Saturday nights. Private security guards are occasionally hired for large occasions, he said.

“Have the restaurants been approached about a pro rata share of security?” the mayor asked. “I would think they would be approachable.

Como town board attorney Parker Smith asked for a resolution by aldermen seeking a tourism tax of two percent on the sale of prepared food, beverages and lodging.

The resolution is presented to the state legislature which must approve a town referendum in order for the tax to be approved. Como’s proposal for a tourism tax has gained legislative approval in attempts in the 2008 and 2009 sessions. Among reasons cited for its failure the lack of a project that would benefit from the funds generated.

“We now have a project,” Still said, referring to an as-yet unnamed citizen’s recent offer to donate land for a children’s playground.

Still also restated his intention to serve as the board’s attorney during his absence for military training that begins in July.

“I really think that I’ll make some contacts that will be beneficial for the town,” he said, during his training with the Army’s Judge Adjutant General Corps near Washington and his assignment afterwards.

“I plan to keep helping the town,” Still said. “I really enjoy it now.” Still also congratulated election officials for a “good, clean race” in the recent municipal elections.

A letter to the mayor and aldermen from the Como Historical Preservation Committee stated that the 225 Main Street building had suffered a “demolition of neglect.” The committee asked for action by aldermen to force the owner to repair the building.

“The last thing we want is for that building to be town down; we just want it fixed,” said committee member Teresa Wallace.

Town officials also discussed other neglected properties including the Shoaf property, a Warren Street property demolished by fire, and a trailer. Aldermen agreed to send a certified letter to Main Street property owner James May seeking to learn his intention for the site.

In other town business, aldermen:

• Voted to extend by one month the contract with the town’s certified water operator. Andre Elllis’s current contract expires at the end of June, and he is proposing an increase from $1,000 to $1,500 for his service, the mayor said.

The aldermen’s unanimous vote included language stating that the town would seek other bids during the extension.

• Learned the cutting of low limbs overhanging roadways would begin Monday, June 8. The fire chief had said the limbs could damage high clearance fire equipment responding to a call. Panola County supervisor James Birge will have the limbs cut, the mayor said.

“Monday we are having some student come to work for us. Students will pick up limbs,” the mayor added. “We have had some homeowners to clean their own up.”

 • Heard a report from the mayor that she is “very optimistic” about a debt to the Internal Revenue Service of approximately $196,000. The debt has loomed over the town since its discovery in July, 2007. When town bank accounts were seized that month, citizens became aware that a financial crisis had flourished undiscovered during preceding years.

The sewer problems, Rayburn said, affected the lift station pump in Froggy Bottom where foreign object in the sewer line had rendered the pump inoperable following a recent repair.

The foreign objects? “Strips of clothing and PVC pipe,” Rayburn said. The object could only have entered the system by someone lifting a manhole cover and dumping them, he added. That triggered a discussion of about locking or bolting manhole covers in place. Some have disappeared, town officials noted, apparently stolen for their scrap value.