County Culvert Policy

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 5, 2010

County will keep culvert use policy

By Billy Davis

Panola County supervisors said Monday that county government will continue to follow a decades-old policy for installing culverts on county road right-of-way.

The long-standing rule, which dates back to 1989, allows county government to furnish and install a culvert for citizens who request it.

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Some neighboring counties require citizens to pay for the culvert from a private source but supervisors, aware of the practice, did not discuss that option in detail Monday.

The unchanged directive came after road manager Lygunnah Bean met with his five elected bosses during a 40-minute sit-down in Sardis.

Two assistant road managers, and their own road foremen, also pulled up a chair in front of the county board.

Bean requested the meeting after he came under fire for helping the City of Sardis address drainage at a church on Gin Street.

A state audit investigator learned of the culverts and visited Bean. The road manager seemed to turn the tables Monday when he pressed the Board of Supervisors for clearer communication about future projects.

Supervisors had approved a request from Mayor Rusty Dye for a load of dirt, as shown in a copy of a board order Bean provided. But Dye, aided by Supervisor James Birge, later asked for culverts for the project.

Bean said the situation was further muddied when a road foreman, who was digging dirt at nearby North Panola High, decided to haul the dirt to the future church project.

“We thought we were innocent people in this thing,” Bean said.

Bean suggested, and supervisors agreed, that future requests from Sardis must be sent from the entire Board of Aldermen.

Bean and supervisors also agreed that any requests from Sardis would be brought before the entire Board of Supervisors, since the city opts to keep its share of state road taxes.

That issue became a topic for several minutes, since other municipalities – Courtland and Pope were mentioned – surrender their road tax revenue in exchange for county help.

A new accounting program is calculating road department help in Sardis and other municipalities, Bean told the board.

Bean is also in the middle of a “culvert audit,” an accounting of culverts that have been purchased since 2008.

The road manager delivered half of the audit Monday, explaining that the figures presented show culverts that are installed beneath county roads.

Bean’s figures show those “custom culverts” totaled $257,930. More than a third were installed in District 4 at a cost of $88,499, leading the five districts.

A coming report will show culverts that are placed on driveway and field right-of-ways, which are referred to as “shop culverts,” Bean said.