New Chickasaw County board, old problems

By Lisa Voyles/Chickasaw Journal

HOUSTON – The Chickasaw County Board of Supervisors held their first meeting of the new year and the new term with two new board members.

Russell “Wolfie” King was elected to District 5 and Russell Brooks was elected to District 3. Brooks formerly served as Supervisors in District 3 from 1995 to 2003.

Anderson McFarland represents District 1 and was selected to serve as Board President for 2012.

“I appreciate the opportunity to serve as President of this board,” McFarland said. “There is one reason we serve on this board and that is to work together for the government of our county. We have to move this county forward.”

The board agreed to renew the contract of Public Defender for Attorney Eddie Lancaster who currently holds the position. Brooks requested to add a stipulation that, in the case of conflict of interest, Lancaster would refer cases to Attorney Sumeka Thomas. Supervisor Jerry Hall said the board can’t dictate who referrals are made to in the event that Lancaster would need to recuse himself, but in the past, Lancaster has referred such cases to Thomas.

The board voted 4-1 to renew the contract with Lancaster, with Brooks abstaining from the vote.

Karen McPherson of the Department of Health addressed the board requesting they apply for a Community Development Block Grant to replace the Health Department in Houston.

The county houses two Health Dept. buildings, one in Houston and one in Okolona.

“Both buildings are old and don’t meet the current standards for confidentiality,” McPherson said.

She also cites issues with parking, dressing rooms, sanitation stations and handicapped access.

McPherson recommended a new 7,000 square foot building estimated at $980,000.

“Your health department serves you from birth to death,” McPherson said, explaining citizens can use to facility to obtain vaccinations and shot records, birth and death certificates and blood tests for marriage licenses. She also encouraged the board to investigate other grants and funding.

“Now is a good time to research FEMA and MEMA grants,” McPherson said.

Health Dept. office manager Shirley Watson addressed the board about the possibility of combining the Houston and Okolona offices into one service center located in the Houston area.

“We could combine them into one building and save the county money and save the state money as well,” Watson said.

Tony Gregory, a citizen in attendance, asked about the feasibility of combining the two offices into one facility located in Van Vleet, between Houston and Okolona.

Jerry Hall, Supervisor in District 4, said he did not believe moving the existing Health Departments was the answer, due to transportation issues and the amount of work needed to build a new facility in Van Vleet.

“There’s security and water and sewer issues,” Hall said. “You’d have to build a lagoon. I don’t think it’s a good location.”

Hall added the board would work to the benefit of all citizens who use the facilities.

“In Okolona, the clients you serve are not only mothers and children, but also elderly people who walk to the Health Department,” Hall said. “We’re going to do what we need to do to best serve our people.”

The board discussed the likelihood of applying for and receiving grants to improve both facilities and King said he was in favor of, “looking into the savings of combining them into one building.”

Brooks said he would like the board to investigate grants for both facilities.

“Both of the departments have a need,” Brooks said. “I’d like to see both of them improved.”

County personnel

At the first board meeting of each new term, the Board of Supervisors makes recommendations on the employment of county personnel.

The following were employed/re-employed at the Jan. 3 meeting.

• Board Attorney, Elizabeth F. Ausbern

• County Administrator/Inventory Clerk, Wanda Sweeney

• County Engineer, Ed Springer

• Road Manager, Kenneth Funderburk

• County Fire Coordinator, Jonathan Blankenship

• County EMA Director, Linda Griffin

• Purchase Clerk, Tommie Morgan

• Receiving Clerk, Delois Rhodes

The board took no action on the matter.

In other business, the board

• tabled bids on the county depository.

• accepted a bid from the Okolona Messenger for legal notices

• heard from Sheriff Jimmy Simmons recommending the County Constables act as sole officers of the court for Justice Court instead of employing part-time deputies

The Chickasaw County Board of Supervisors will meet again on Tuesday, Jan. 17, at the Chickasaw County Courthouse.