Road Manager

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 1, 2010

Road manager seeks sit-down with five bosses

By Billy Davis

Panola County supervisors and their road manager are expected to tackle some touchy topics and lingering issues Monday, when the Board of Supervisors holds its First District meeting in Sardis.

Road manager Lygunnah Bean, now in the middle of an accounting of purchased culverts, said he is bringing two assistant road managers, and their road foreman, to the meeting.

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Bean requested the meeting to discuss the culverts, said board president Gary Thompson.

The ongoing “culvert audit,” expected to be completed by Monday, comes after supervisors approved the in-house audit at their September 13 meeting.

The audit is tracking the purchase and installation of $600,000 in culverts, dating back to 2008.

Bean said he “feels good” about the figures he will present. “We will have data and charts and graphs, and put it all out there for the public to see,” he predicted.

Panola road department figures show it most recently spent $176,387 on culverts, with $175,000 budgeted, for the just-ended fiscal year, according to Bean.

The total spending jumped by almost $80,000 when the total includes culverts that were installed after road flooding in 2009, and after the county purchased culverts for the new industrial park. Those purchases shoot the spending to $256,065, but Bean noted that FEMA is reimbursing Panola County for the materials and labor. Panola Partnership is also paying the county for the industrial park culverts.

The road department has budgeted $150,000 for culvert purchases for the new fiscal year, which begins today. That amount was slashed by $25,000 as part of budget tightening within the road department.

The Monday meeting comes after a state audit investigator visited the road department after two culverts and 13 loads of dirt were dumped at a Sardis church.

The Board of Supervisors had approved a single load of dirt for the drainage work.

The road department eventually removed its two culverts, with Bean explaining that a city engineer had said only a single pipe was needed to divert water from the church parking lot.  

Sardis officials backed off, too, and told parishioners – after years of discussions – that the drainage work would be performed on private property, and thus be illegal.   

Bean said he and other road department officials will explain the Sardis church situation to supervisors.

“What I want to know is, if 13 loads of dirt are wrong, so is one load of dirt,” he said.

The road manager also said he will ask for a “culvert policy,” which would tighten the road department’s generous policy of placing culverts along driveway and farm field right-of-ways.

Questions about how far to spread gravel, and the placement of culverts on a field road, will be asked at the meeting, he said.

The audit investigator requested that county government create a firm policy, Bean explained.

Placement of a public-owned culvert on the public right-of-way is legal in Mississippi, though Bean and supervisors sometimes hear complaints when the public sees a road crew installing the pipe and spreading the gravel.

Panola County government currently supplies a 30-foot culvert for a new driveway, at a cost of more than $200, with no limit on replacements.

Some large culverts, for creeks and large drainage ditches, can cost several thousand dollars.

Neighboring counties Tate and Coahoma require the property owner to purchase the culvert from a private supplier, which is then installed by the road department, Bean said.

Panola County government, if it ends its policy of a free culvert, cannot legally sell them to the public, said County Administrator Kelley Magee said.