By JANE CLARK SUMMERS
Daily Journal Corinth Bureau
RIPLEY – About 85 citizens gathered Thursday night to learn more about the unit system of government before deciding how to vote on the issue in the November general election.
At the invitation of Concerned Citizens for a Better Government, Marty Wiseman, director of the John C. Stennis Institute, and a professor of political science at Mississippi State University, outlined the benefits of changing to a unit system.
“This is nostalgic,” said Wiseman, who has spoken at several such meetings following passage of legislation in 1988, which required all counties to put the unit system to a vote.
After the election, results showed that 47 counties voted for the unit system, including Tippah County, Wiseman said. A recount, however, showed the beat system won a few votes.
Most of those asking questions wanted to know if their taxes will go down, and if they will get better roads with a unit system. But the answer is not clear yet.
During the transition stage, the unit system could cost more money but in the long run it should be more efficient, Wiseman said. Taxes might not go down but the quality of service should improve, he said.
Supervisors would be able to focus on bigger issues since a county administrator and road manager would be taking the bulk of everyday operations, he said.
In the beat system, 10 to 15 percent of the county budget is spent on roads, divided equally among the five districts, while 95 percent of the supervisors' time is spent on road and bridge work, Wiseman said.
Wiseman said the unit system will work if the supervisors want it to and won't work if they don't. District 1 Supervisor Jimmy Gunn commented on that statment saying that three members of the board could control who is hired as the administrator and road manager.
Regardless of which system is in use, supervisors are still the ones making the final decisions, Gunn said.
“I think (Wiseman) gave us enough information to make an intelligent decision,” said Boone Shelton, former Tippah County Chancery Clerk.
At least one citizen has already made up his mind. “I am satisfied with the way it is,” said Bud Huddleston of Ripley.