County OK’s Jonestown Bypass bidBy FLOYD INGRAM / THE PRESS REGISTER,
Gov. Tate Reeves signed HB 1586 Tuesday clearing the way for Coahoma County to borrow up to $4 million from the Hospital Trust Fund to build the Jonestown Bypass and finish construction of the Justice Center and County Fire Station.
It has taken more than 10 years, but bids to pave the Jonestown Bypass were accepted by Coahoma County Supervisors Monday morning, contingent on the Governor’s signature.
Supervisors approved M&N Excavators bid of $2,605,736.24 to pave 1.1 miles of road around the northern Coahoma County town. The county will also spend about $1.2 million to finish the Coahoma County Justice Court Center and roughly $900,000 to finish the fire station.
To confirm how long the supervisors have worked on this project, $900,000 earmarked by Senator Thad Cochran will be used to round-out the funding.
“I want people to understand we are borrowing this from the hospital fund, but we have to pay them back,” said Board of Supervisors President Johnny Newson. “This way we don’t have to raise taxes.”
In May supervisors discussed raising taxes up to 4 mills to service the $4 million loan it would take from the Hospital Reserve fund. Supervisors said they want to review the project at their June 1 meeting as the Legislature pondered the funding bill.
The local and private bill sponsored by State Representative Orlando Paden was crafted and referred to committee. The legislation had the county borrowing approximately $2 million to pay for the justice center and fire station and added the Jonestown bypass to the list May 4. The board voted to hire bond attorneys at that time.
The $12.49 million Justice Center was slated to open last summer. The county initially obtained a general obligation bond that they thought would pay for the entire project.
“We took a big hit when we lost our casino revenue,” said Newson.” We’ve also got to look at refunding our local entities that we stopped when we lost our casino revenue.”
The coronavirus shutdown prompted Coahoma County supervisors to cut all non-statutory required funding in April as they faced the loss of casino tax revenue. The casino in Lula contributes about $100,000 a month to county coffers. The casino was shut down by COVID-19 in mid-March. The cuts to 16 local agencies totaled $30,208.17.
In other business:
• The county heard public comment from Tate County principal Will Smith asking for the resignation of County Fire Chief Jerry Mills for comments made on Facebook. The board took no action and named it as a personnel matter to be discussed in executive session.
• The county honored Taylor C. Matthews with the Mississippi Association of Supervisors Minority Caucus Scholarship
• Supervisors delayed changing the location of the Lyon voting precinct from Lyon City Hall to the soon to be built County Fire Station until after the November election. The new fire station will not be ready by early November.
• Supervisors carried forward an appointment to the Coahoma Community College board and named Mary Carradine to the Library Board.
• Carried forward a decision to change the rent on Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center until July 15.
• Approved a request by Justice Court Clerk Darlene Lake to hire Markeetha Trotter
• Heard a report from Coahoma County Youth Outreach director Kendric Travis that the center is basically shutdown during the COVID-19 crisis.
• The board approved extensions, corrections and fourth quarter appropriations for Tax Assessor Ann Williams
• The county accepted the resignation of Jordan Bryant and the retirement of Frank Lester and Eddie West.
• The board accepted fourth quarter appropriations to the Sheriff’s Department budget.
• The county renewed the Health Care Emergency to continue access to the Hospital Trust Fund.
• Supervisors approved Circuit Court using the CCYO/Expo Building for their summer criminal court terms.
• The board approved emergency purchases due to COVID-19 and the April 12, 2020 storm.
• As required by state law the board named its purchase clerk, purchase requisition signers, receiving clerk and assistant receiving clerks.
• The board approved voiding a list of outstanding checks.
• Supervisors heard a comparative budget report from Comptroller Ann Hoskins. Hoskins said the county was at 70-percent of its budget expended and was at 80-percent at this time last year. Hoskins said the county is at 90-percent of revenue.
• The board heard a Justice Court Report from Lake saying $11,577 was collected in newly levied fines last month. The board discussed past due fine collection options but made no decision on collecting more than $1.2 million in unpaid fines.
• The board approved the MAS Inmate Medical Extension Contract
• The board went into executive session to discuss the hospital lease, personnel issues and litigation strategies on pending lawsuits.
• Coahoma County Board of Supervisors recessed until a special called 4 p.m. meeting July 8. The next regular board meeting will 10 a.m. July 15.