Chancery Clerk: time to reconsider duplication of county’s services 11/11/2014

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Chancery Clerk: time to reconsider duplication of county’s services

By Rupert Howell
Looking for direction to proceed, engineer Larry Britt told Panola supervisors that repair/replacement of the cooling system at the Sardis Courthouse could cost between $409,820 and $828,315.

Britt was seeking to determine if the board wanted to advertise for repair or to pay for having additional specifications prepared for replacement and advertise for both.

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The higher priced alternative was estimated to save the county as much as 20 percent in the utility bills Britt noted.

Britt’s conversation evidently stoked a ‘fire’ that has been building under Chancery Clerk Jim Pitcock’s for some time as he urged supervisors to consider consolidating courthouses to one central location where services and equipment would no longer be duplicated.

Current law requires facilities in both of Panola’s Judicial Districts but Pitcock said that could be dealt with through the legislature.

“I think as a county we need to have a vision—a plan for the future and quit spending so much money on duplication of services, building maintenance and equipment.”

“I know some people will disagree, but this has been in my heart for a long time,” Pitcock told supervisors.

As clerk of the board and treasurer of the County, Pitcock is familiar with checks and funds passing through the county and said later that in the past, building maintenance had been used as a way to scam funds with bogus repairs or excessive fees.

The Chancery Clerk listed staffing two courthouses, duplication of equipment and supplies, utilities and insurance as draining county funds. Earlier in the meeting supervisors approved payment of $80,000 for just the blacktop portion of work at the Batesville Courthouse parking lot.
Pitcock noted that the City of Batesville might be interested in obtaining the Batesville Courthouse if the county decided to move.

At least two supervisors chimed in with agreement including Board President Kelly Morris who stated, “We need to look at it.”

District Three Supervisor John Thomas said he thought it was an “excellent idea.”

After board members voted to take Engineer Britt’s request for direction under advisement, District Two Supervisor Vernice Avant whose district encompasses the Sardis Courthouse wanted to know why supervisors were voting to talk about it instead of voting to move forward with Britt’s request.

Supervisors recessed until Wednesday, November 20 at 11 a.m.