The Coahoma County Board of Supervisors filed a lawsuit against C&J Railroad Company Inc. and hired the law firm Hunt Ross & Allen PA for representation during Monday’s meeting.
C&J Railroad Company Inc. out of Clarksdale leased the railroad going from Swan Lake to Jonestown when county purchased it more than 10 years ago during the late Hugh Jack Stubbs’ tenure as county administrator. The county is no longer doing business with C&J Railroad Company Inc. and is leasing the railroad to Chicago Rock Island & Pacific Railroad LLC out of Chicago as of March 1.
“The railroad was going to be dismantled and taken away,” said Board of Supervisors president Paul Pearson. “We were going to lose it. We held on to it simply because of the fact that you may have an industry comes here that needs a railroad.
Litigation issues go back to when C&J Railroad Company Inc. was leasing the railroad and those were discussed during executive session.
Pearson stressed the need of having a railroad.
“It’s very important because you have industries that come look at our community and they may need a railroad and that puts us higher on the list,” he said.
In other business, the board unanimously passed a healthcare emergency that would permit Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center employees to be paid through the hospital reserve fund.
Board attorney Tom Ross reported the state house and senate, pending a signature from Gov. Phil Bryant, approved legislation allowing the board to use $500,000 from the hospital reserve funds. The $500,000 would normally be a lease payment from the company running the hospital, but matters are still in litigation.
Ross said a confirmation hearing is scheduled for May 5 that could end all bankruptcy litigation matters and put Community Health Systems’ name on the lease of the hospital. CHS has been running the hospital as part of a deal since Curae declared bankruptcy.
However, Curae’s name is still on the lease.
Once CHS takes over the lease, the county will attempt to find a buyer for the hospital.
As part of the negotiation, CHS will have all items in the hospital that Curae once owned appraised. The bankruptcy court currently owns all of Curae’s old property in the hospital. CHS will purchase those items from the bankruptcy court and take over the hospital lease.
“At that time, they’re (bankruptcy court) expected to sell CHS personal property,” Ross said. “At that time, action should be taken.”
The Board unanimously approved Neel-Schaffer Inc., an engineering firm, overseeing all projects for the local airport – Fletcher Field – for the next 10 years.
“They were in Neel-Schaffer’s favor, so I just need the board to approve we will continue with Neel-Schaffer’s services,” said county administrator Morgan Wood.
The board also approved a project to redo the taxiway lighting for $27,300 and it will all be paid for through a Federal Aviation Administration grant. The project is scheduled to be completed by Aug. 10, 2020.
Wood said the county will foot the bill for everything at first. The FAA grant will reimburse the county after the work is completed.
“You can do it month to month, you can do it quarterly or you can do it at the end of the project,” Wood said.
Supervisor Johnny Newson expressed concern about “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
“The question is, if we’re going to put this money up front, when are we going to get it back?” Newson said.
“As long as we do it correctly, there is no issue,” Wood replied.
Redoing the taxiway lighting is just the beginning.
“They’re wanting a new taxiway to bring larger businesses here,” Wood said. “It’s something we’re just trying to get down the road. It won’t be this year. It won’t be next year.”
Clarksdale/Coahoma County Chamber of Commerce executive director Jon Levingston and attorney Ted Connell discussed a new industry that could bring 50 jobs to the community during executive session.
Discussion has been ongoing, but Pearson the industry is “a little closer every day” to coming to Coahoma County.
The Board voted to have the Coahoma County Youth Outreach board to be reduced from 11 to 10 members.
The term for the at-large seat, held by Shaun Redwine, expires Wednesday, April 3. That seat was eliminated, but Pearson said, if Redwine wishes to stay on the CCYO board, he would appoint him for District 1.
“I think five would be a good working number or seven or something,” said Pearson of reducing the number of individuals on the CCYO board. “The only reason why I’d even consider it is they’re having a hard time getting a quorum.”
The Board approved Sheriff Charles Jones’ third-quarter appropriation for the budget.
Jones has been in office since 2009, added 22 deputies during the past 10 years and always went within the budget.
“He’s always has come in budget,” Pearson said. “He’s always done fine in his budget. The sheriff has always managed his budget well.”