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Road work, contacts for churches discussed at supervisors meeting

Road department spending in the five districts of Panola County varied substantially in June, and manager Bruce Cook told supervisors at Monday’s meeting he plans to more evenly balance month-to-month work among the districts.

“To be fair to the supervisors and all the citizens I think we need to balance it out more and not be top heavy in one district or the other,” Cook said in his report to the board. He said the county spent $326,716 on projects across Panola in June. By district, the costs were:

 $79,297 in District 1

$98,264 in District 2

$43,765 in District 3

$88,079 in District 4

$17,308 in District 5

Cook noted that supervisors in Districts 2 and 4, where the most money was spent, are both new to the board, opining those supervisors had probably pushed the road department harder in their districts.

Cook said speed bumps requested by supervisor John Thomas (Dist. 3) will be installed, and the approaches to the railroad tracks on China Rd. in Courtland will be considered for repair.

Drivers in Dist. 4 who use Anthony Rd. to access their homes and businesses will soon be able to have full use of the road when a major bridge that has been closed for repairs since Moses was in junior high is finally opened. Only a final inspection required before opening is needed and is expected to be completed any day.

Complaints about county roads have taken top priority in that department, Cook said. On file were 167 road issues called in by citizens, one dating back to April 8, 2018, when he took office and that number had been reduced by more than a third when the report was prepared for the meeting.

“They were stacked up pretty deep, but we have gotten 64 of them closed and actually more since the agenda was due, and we are going to get them all,” Cook told supervisors “We want to be able to respond to citizens in a week or two and not six or eight months.”

In other board business, supervisors voted unanimously to give Emergency Management director Daniel Cole broad authority to disperse, at his discretion, any and all supply of masks received by the county either from Federal of Mississippi Emergency Management Agencies and other sources.

So far, the distribution of masks in the county has been handled on an individual event basis with supervisors finding set up points and volunteers with the help of the Sheriff’s Office and other volunteers. This week’s order will give Cole the opportunity to better manage the give outs and authority to give large quantities to groups he thinks would most efficiently help provide a mask for all citizens of the county.

Cole has already overseen the distribution of approximately 25,000 masks in the county, including 9,000 to North and South Panola schools and North Delta School. From the mask discussion, Cole brought up the matter of the lack of county records on faith-based organizations, specifically rural churches.

“One of the problems we’ve had in this pandemic is reaching people through their churches because we don’t have a good up to date list of all the churches in the county with a good contact from every pastor,” Cole said.

“We also have a lot of civic organizations that we don’t know about or don’t know the contact person. We need to take this opportunity to get to know them better and rely on them in the future during emergencies.”

Cole also asked the board to approve a uniform budget for his department, proposing Cintas begin supplying his four-person office with shirts, pants, and laundry service for a price of $732 annually per employee. Supervisors approved the request.

Board members also had a short discussion about the condition of a long driveway in the 3900 area of Macedonia Rd. where a county resident has an agreement for the Solid Waste Dept. to provide “back door service” for weekly garbage pickup.

Supervisors may approve, and do from time to time, for a county resident to be provided special service in garbage collection when the person is unable to get their collection can to the road for regular pick up.

When supervisors approve back door service they must also undertake the maintenance of the easement, the driveway, so a county garbage truck can access the house and the driver can manually bring the can to the truck.

The driveway on Macedonia is nearly impassable for the garbage truck according to supervisors Cole Flint and Earl Burdette, who looked at the road last week. Their recommendation to repair the road brought up other bad roads in the county from supervisors in other districts.

“I understand that the driveway on Macedonia is torn all to pieces and we probably did it with our garbage truck, but if we fix that one what’s the difference in fixing the two lakes in the middle of the road on Ford Road off Heafner Road?,” asked supervisor Chad Weaver.

“There’s seven or eight houses back there and some of them are elderly couples and if they tried to get an ambulance in there to get those folks they would hang up and drag bottom,” Weaver said. “Those people have been pushing their garbage cans to the road for years and nobody is helping them. Their road is terrible.”

County Attorney Gaines Baker reminded the board the county only has authority to maintain, and also the obligation, roads that have official easements.

Cook told supervisors he knows of bad roads all over the county, but working fixing roads with no easements would be “opening a can of worms.”

In a final bit of business, County Administrator Kate Victor reported to the supervisors the Town of Crowder has returned a contract for garbage pickup at the new rate of $20 per customer.

Victor said she is still waiting on contracts from Como and Crenshaw. The City of Batesville has a contract until April and then will have to decide whether to go with the higher rate per customer or take bids from outside companies.

Any customer in the county who has prepaid by the year for garbage service will not be charged extra when the rates are increased in August.