Board Meeting

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 9, 2010



Supervisor’s list draws fire from road manager

By Billy Davis

It was a war of words.

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Over potholes and gravel. And priorities.

Panola County Supervisor Kelly Morris and road manager Lygunnah Bean quarreled Tuesday morning, when Morris complained that two county districts are benefiting from county roadwork.  

Morris, who represents District 4, alleged that work in Districts 1 and 2 outpaces Districts 3 and 4.

District 2 and 4, respectively, hold the largest miles of county roads. The remaining district, District 5, is located in a portion of Batesville and is known to receive the least amount of county road work among the five districts.

The county road department operates with three road crews, with one working in Districts 1 and 2 in the “north end” of the county. A second crew operates in the “south end,” in Districts 3, 4 and 5. Both crews haul and spread gravel, and install culverts, among other duties.

The third road crew, charged with building and maintaining roads and bridges, moves through all five county districts.

Morris attended the board meeting with nine months of statistics tallied on a yellow sheet of legal paper. He said the figures were pulled from nine monthly reports, called the “Completed List,” that the road manager provides to supervisors.

Morris’s figures showed 61 driveways had been graveled in District 2 from September 2009 through May 2010. District 1 had the second-highest number of loads, 27, while Morris claimed only 17 driveways were worked in Districts 3 and 4.

“I used figures that came from Lygunnah. They’re his own numbers,” Morris told The Panolian, when asked if he could defend the statistics.

Morris also pointed out that his figures showed 17 driveways were worked in District 2 in one month, November 2009, when Supervisor Vernice Avant was pitted in a special election.

Avant’s opponent claimed, at the time of the election, that gravel had been dumped and spread on more than 40 driveways in District 2.

Panola County government can legally dump gravel and spread it on the portion of a private driveway that is considered the county right-of-way.

Morris also used the Completed List to show 34 culverts had been installed in District 2 over a nine-month period, more than any other district. His tally showed 29 culverts installed in his own district followed by 16 in District 3, 15 in District 1 and four in District 5.

Morris presented a third objection. The monthly Completed List shows a percentage of work completed on road projects in each district, and Morris had totaled percentages to allege progress in Districts 1 and 2 were outpacing all others.

The Completed List also shows monthly progress on the “four-year road plan,” the county’s stated plan for long-term road improvements in each district. Supervisors rely on the plan to point to progress in their district, but Morris claimed the plan is slow moving in Districts 3 and 4.

“The four-year road plan – it’s 80 percent in District 1 and District 2,” Morris told Bean. “It’s only 20 percent in (districts) 3 and 4.”    

Bean voiced the most disapproval at Morris’s tactic of adding percentages. Some road projects require considerable work, which means the progress is slow, the road manager said.

“That doesn’t mean no work is getting done,” Bean explained to Morris.  

Bean said Nelson Spur Road, in District 3, required up to three weeks of work because the paving crew plowed the road surface before laying a new one.

Morris, responding to that example, said that Bynum Road, in District 4, has remained at “20 percent” for some time.

At the supervisors meeting, Morris was sharing his figures with fellow supervisors Bubba Waldrup and James Birge, when Birge called Bean to listen to the complaint.

Morris and Bean then argued  – their tone remained civil – about the supervisor’s allegations.

“I just want to make sure we’re following the unit system,” Morris said at one point. “I want it to be fair in all districts.”

“You’ve got the same crew on both ends (of the county) doing the same thing,” Bean responded.

The disagreement came after the county meeting had concluded. Other conversations in the boardroom stopped and all eyes turned to Morris and Bean.

“I feel like Kelly should have gone to Lygunnah to discuss it. He didn’t handle it right,” said Board President Gary Thompson, who represents District 3.

“It wasn’t conducted in the right manner,” said Waldrup, who represents District 5.

Asked about Morris’s accusations, Thompson said he agreed that more four-year work had been completed last year in Districts 1 and 2. But excessive rains hampered progress in other districts, he said.

Because of delays, Thompson said he has asked Bean to complete last year’s road projects before moving to others.

“I know when I call for work requests, they get done,” said Thompson.

Waldrup said he agreed with Bean that totaling the percentages was an unfair comparison.

Asked about the other complaints listed on the sheet, Waldrup said he didn’t have time to review them because Bean and Morris began quarreling.

Morris made a request, and got it, Tuesday morning: he rode with Bean, later that morning, to show the road manager road problems throughout District 4.

The supervisor and road manager visited Eureka, Deer Creek, Love Joy, Ragon, Central Academy North, and Sardis Lake Drive, among others.

Morris said the trip took nearly four hours.