Supes pass on cell policy

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Supervisors pass up, again, on deciding tough cell phone policy

By Billy Davis

Panola County supervisors discussed a touchy topic on June 11 — the use of cellular phones in county vehicles — but took no action on new rules for non-commercial vehicles.

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A federal law that began January 3 prohibits cell phone use by drivers in commercial vehicles, such as county dump trucks, but supervisors were pressed at their Second District meeting to decide on strict rules for other automobiles, too.

Panola County Administrator Kelley Magee asked about punishment for CDL holders who break the rule, citing the new federal law that could fine the county up to $11,000 for an employee who is caught.

Road manager Lygunnah Bean said the federal law would only fine Panola County government if it’s at fault, which is not the case because drivers have been instructed about the federal law, he said.

Asked by Magee about punishment, Bean said procedures for punishing a driver are already listed in the road department’s personnel manual.

“I think if they’re caught twice we ought to terminate them,” suggested John Thomas, the District 3 supervisor.
Bean has said his job requires almost constant use of a cell phone while driving, and he repeated that dilemma again Monday.

“I think it should be discouraged,” he said, though he described how communication is an important tool to do his job and a cell phone ensures good communication.

“I’m hardly ever in my office,” he added. “I’m in my truck.”

County officials last discussed cell phone use in April, when Magee proposed new rules that would allow calls to go to voice mail and require drivers to pull over to talk on the phone. Supervisors said little about the proposal in the public meeting but voted to table any decision.  

Bean observed Monday that many truck drivers are using headsets when they’re behind the wheel.
“They allow that?” asked board president Kelly Morris.

“Yes, those are legal,” said Supervisor Cole Flint. 

The county board agreed to study the use of the headsets. Meanwhile, board attorney Bill McKenzie suggested the topic will likely be discussed this week at the annual meeting of Mississippi supervisors.
The board agreed 5-0 to take the issue under advisement. 

In other county business:

•Bean said the road department is erecting signs on Dummyline Road that post a 45-mile-per-hour speed limit.
A driver complained about the lack of signs after receiving a speeding ticket from a state trooper, he said. Bean did not say how fast the driver was driving.
Elliot and Britt engineer Steven Gray said standard speed on county roads is 55 miles per hour, though the “design speed” of Dummyline is 45 miles an hour, he said.

•Supervisors voted to submit grant paperwork for improving two county roads, Industrial Park Road and Holston Road, for a federal grant.
North Delta Planning director James Curcio advised supervisors at their June 4 meeting that it was unlikely the $1 million set aside for road projects statewide would accept Industrial Park Road, which is estimated to cost $698,000 to repave.

•Supervisors voted to hire Mark Allen part time to perform radio equipment repairs at $10 an hour.
Panola EMA director Daniel Cole suggested the hiring because typical rates for radio repairs range from $25 to $75 an hour.

•Sheriff Dennis Darby requested the hiring of Justin Ales as a sheriff’s deputy.

•Supervisors unanimously approved a tax exemption for an expansion at GE Aviation.