Roads discussion dominates supes meeting


Oktibbeha resident Peggy Rogers comes before the board to further plea for the paving of Longview Road. (Photo By Faith Lifer, SDN)

By: 
Faith Lifer
Staff Writer

Oktibbeha County residents opened Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting with concerns over county road construction — or a concern over a lack thereof.

After citizen comments, however, the topic of roads continued to dominate the meeting, dividing board members over fund comparisons and district rights.

Oktibbeha County resident Peggy Rogers came before the board, once again, to discuss the paving of Longview Road as the new school year begins.

“We are still trying to get a clear expression of your support to pave Longview Road,” Rogers said of herself and several county citizens who came in her support. “And we don’t have that yet.”

When Rogers addressed the availability of funds for paving Longview Road, District 2 Supervisor and President Orlando Trainer told her the reality of funds for paving the road.

“The only way to fix anything would be another bond issue,” Trainer said.

The previous bond money had been allocated elsewhere.

Longview Road is the responsibility of District 1 Supervisor and Vice President John Montgomery and District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller.

Miller does not have any bond money left, and Montgomery only has a small amount left he intends to save for small “patchwork” projects.

However, Miller and Montgomery have allocated $886,000 of state aid money to the project.

“It’s still the top priority for Oktibbeha County,” Miller said. “No other project can be accepted until the construction on that project is started.”

“Until we get the new engineering plans, which is what we discussed at the last meeting, we don’t have any answers at the moment,” Miller added.

“There are needs everywhere in this community,” Montgomery said. “I want Longview paved as bad as anyone.”

“I’m not against paving LongviewRoad,” Montgomery added. “I don’t know how that got in anyone’s head.”

When Rogers asked other board members to consider lending their district’s bond money to Longview Road, District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams defended his district’s money.

“Longview is not in District 5,” Williams said. “There is bond money in District 5 for the people of District 5.”

Williams then addressed the requests from his constituents, regarding the paving of Blackjack Road in his district.

“They are complaining too about the need to eliminate a dusty road,” Williams said of his constituents in District 5. “It wouldn’t be fair to take the money that is allocated to District 5 and go give that money toward District 4 and District 1.”

District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard joined the discussion to address the use of one district’s money for another district, and how he believes it happens often.

“This one statement about how it’s not fair to take the money of one district and put it in another district,” Howard said. “It’s not fair to the citizens, but it has been done.”

“This board allocates and un-allocates and reallocates all the time,” Howard continued. “In fact there was a 3-2 vote to do that exact thing (to District 3 and District 1).”

“I’d like to clarify that statement,” Miller said. “The districts are not equal.”

According to Miller, more money was given to districts that are larger and that have more road mileage.

District 4, for example, has the most road miles within its area. According to Miller, District 3 only holds 12 percent of county road miles, whereas District 4 holds 69 percent.

“When we originally allocated the four-year road money, it was split evenly,” Miller concluded.

“Simply put,” Williams chimed in, “We have twice as many roads as you have.”

“That’s not my argument, Supervisor Williams,” Howard said.

Howard believes other board members were deceptive in their intentions to unevenly distribute the money.

“Make sure you tell the whole background,” Howard said. “Money was allocated, and then it was reallocated.”

Howard addressed Williams again.

“My argument is you said said we were going to spend the money five ways equally, and then you backed up on your word,” Howard said. “So basically you lied.”

After there were some gasps and laughter in response to Howard’s accusation, Trainer tried to calm everyone down by readdressing Rogers for any last comments she had.

Rogers addressed Board Attorney Rob Roberson.

“Introduce a bill that says when I pay taxes, it goes to District 1, because I need to see Supervisor Montgomery pave Longview Road,” Rogers concluded.

FURTHER ROAD CONCERNS

When County Road Manager Fred “Hal” Baggett came before the board to discuss a report on county roads, Miller inquired about an issue she came across two weeks ago.

Miller had a road in her district, which was under construction. However, the work couldn’t be finished, requiring a change order.

Due to the change order, extra cost was added to the project.

“Why does one road have to have a change order in one district, but in another district, when the road is under construction, the county can go out and repair that issue?” Miller asked, referring to another road project in District 1.

According to Baggett, the issue Miller addressed was an issue of contractor work versus county maintenance.

While the problem with the road in Miller’s district was believed to be within the contractor’s responsibility, the problem in Trainer’s district was a maintenance concern for which the county is responsible.

“In the other area, it was a more of a maintenance thing caught by the engineer,” Baggett said.

Miller was not satisfied with Baggett’s response. She believed her road issue was a maintenance issue as well.

Trainer then asked Miller how much money the change order added to the bill for the road project and if Miller had compared costs of the road projects.

“I don’t know because I didn’t do it. You did,” Miller said to Trainer. “I didn’t have the opportunity to do that, because you made the call in your district.”

Howard then chimed in.

“I think what we need to do at this point is let the engineer go out and determine if it’s the contractor’s fault, or if it’s an issue beyond the contractor’s control,” Howard suggested.

Montgomery gave his approval of the idea, with the additional requirement the engineer reports back to the board, to which Howard agreed.

“We need to get a clear set of guidelines on what needs to take place,” Howard continued. “Because the last thing we need to be doing is sending our county forces back to straighten up a contractor’s mistake.”

Howard made a motion to send county engineers to determine if an issue during road construction is a contractor issue for the contractor to address, or a maintenance issue for the county to address.

Howard’s motion was passed unanimously.

Williams then addressed the roads in his district.

Due to Williams having bond money left for road projects, he suggested that bond money be used to buy materials for road projects, using the labor of county workers instead of contractors.

Howard and Montgomery were openly against the idea. They believed it was unfair.

“If that’s the process we were going to use, I could’ve gotten twice as much done with my bond money,” Howard said.

“You can’t just say, ‘well, I’ve got some bond money left. We’re going to let the county forces hang out and do all the roads in my district,” Montgomery added.

“If that be the case…I need to try to squeeze as many pennies as I can to get what we can get done with the money I’ve got.”

“I haven’t been able to use any county money in my district,” Montgomery went on. “So if that’s the game we’re gonna play, I wanna know.”

“I think the objective is to get as many roads paved as we possibly can,” Williams said.

Montgomery believes the county road projects should go in the preset order to be fair to all districts.

In response to the discussion, Howard made a motion to require board approval before county workers are used for road projects, which was then passed unanimously.

WASTE MANAGEMENT SERVICES

At the end of Monday’s board meeting, Miller recommended the board address an issue regarding the county waste management services with Golden Triangle Waste Services.

The board then went into executive session.

After the executive session, Montgomery made a motion to go into contract with the county’s lowest bidder for waste management services, Arrow Disposal Services. Miller seconded Montgomery’s motion.

The motion failed 2-3, with Montgomery and Miller voting in favor, and with Trainer, Williams and Howard voting against.

Trainer then made a motion to recommend the immediate termination of Betty Farmer, the Director of Golden Triangle Waste Services to the executive board of Golden Triangle Waste Services.

Montgomery seconded Trainer’s motion.

The motion to recommend Farmer’s termination passed 3-1, wth Howard voting against the motion and Miller abstaining from voting.

Trainer believes a breakdown in communication between Golden Triangle Waste Services and certain members of the board has led to strong concerns, which needed to be addressed.

“I hate that it’s come down to that,” Trainer said of the board’s recommendation. “But I think we need to send an external message how serious we are about the situation.”

Howard, the sole representative against the motion, is a member of the Golden Triangle Waste Services Executive Board.

“Since I’ve been a member of the executive board, Farmer has been extremely accommodating,” Howard said. “I’ve developed a good working relationship with her.”

Although he brought the motion for Farmer’s termination, Trainer doesn’t believe the executive board will actually fire Farmer.

“A change needs to be made, and Farmer will hopefully make those changes,” Trainer said. “After this whole saga, hopefully we can have this whole thing figured out.”

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