By NATHAN GREGORY
In business not related to the Oktibbeha County Lake or OCH Regional Medical Center, the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors approved accepting two grants from the Mississippi Department of Public Safety designed to assist with DUI and seat belt law enforcement.
A seat belt enforcement grant gives $12,183 to Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department. The majority of that funding — $9.559 is set aside to pay deputies overtime, Chief Deputy Chadd Garnett said. Fringe benefit funds make up $2,032 of the grant, with the remaining $600 provided for purchasing a traffic vest and flashlights.
A $24,800 DUI grant provides $16,425 for overtime, $3,575 in fringe benefits, $3,600 to buy eight new portable breath testers and $1,200 to purchase eight traffic vests and eight flashlights.
Sheriff Steve Gladney said since OCSD received funding from similar grants earlier this year, the department has had enough extra deputies on duty to strongly enforce seatbelt and DUI laws.
“It’s a huge help to have extra manpower when you have volume of traffic from students and fans on these ball game weekends,” Gladney said. “It allows us to pay overtime for our deputies. This coming weekend I think we’ve got three extra (deputies) out Friday night and Saturday night.”
Garnett said the grant allowed the department to have up to five extra deputies on duty for the past two game day weekends, and extra manpower as a result of grant funds has also allowed OCSD to bring in revenue from citations.
“The total revenue that was brought in (from seat belt and DUI violations) was $193,627 since May. We have four deputies that work per shift — not a lot to cover the area we have,” Garnett said. “What the grant allowed us to do was on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 was the weekend of the Jackson State game We had nine deputies working Friday night and 10 working Saturday night. The extra ones came from the grant money. The Auburn game we had eight on Friday night and nine on Saturday night.”
The board turned down a proposal from District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer to authorize Pritchard Engineering to do an assessment of the Mississippi Horse Park in a 3-2 measure. District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams sided with Trainer, while District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery, District 3 Supervisor and Board President Marvell Howard and District 4 Supervisor Daniel Jackson opposed.
Trainer said work needs to be done on the park’s harness track, and an assessment would have given the board information they need to know to fix it so it can be used in the future for events that could bring revenue to the county.
“If we got the park in better condition five or six extra events could be held out there to bring in some funds for the county, so it’s in the public interest of our citizens,” Trainer said. “The first step of getting that work done was to get an engineer to look at it.”
Montgomery said he agrees that the track is an issue that needs to be addressed, but equal participation from the city and Mississippi State University, who are in a co-op along with the county, is needed going forward.
“I think we need to work out how that’s going to be allocated between the three entities,” Montgomery said. “I don’t have a problem with us putting in our share but I think at the same time because it’s a cooperation, we should all share that cost.”
Supervisors also agreed to fund building of bus turnarounds for county school students. Areas where they will be built include Poe Drive, Elzena Lane, Milons Lane and Peaceful Valley Lane.
Trainer said these turnarounds are important from a safety standpoint.
“That will prevent a kid from having to trek a long distance to the bus in inclement weather. There are a lot of kids in the county that live off the road. It’s dangerous to have children in the main road,” Trainer said. “Too many things can happen on those long routes where the bus could be delayed. (Also), not everybody wants you to turn a bus around in their driveway because over time it can cause damage.”