Increase in county value brings raises for some officials

At table from left are supervisors C. J. Bright, Sam Taylor, Steve Watson, attorney Chandler Rogers, supervisor Randy Owen and county administrator Terry Johnson. At rear is chief deputy Baron Baker.
December 8th, 2020     Featured Government & Politics

Some county officials will see pay raises next year thanks to legislative action and an increase in the overall value of Union County.

Union County supervisors, the county prosecuting attorney, justice court judges and the county board attorney now have their salaries based on the assessed valuation of the county, which also determines how much tax revenue the county will receive.

The approved assessed valuation for the county is $301,933,683, according to County Administrator Terry Johnson. A value of $300 million is a break point in salaries and moving past that means the officials are getting a $4,429 raise, bringing the salaries to $46,041, he said.

The medical examiner-investigator is also entitled to a raise in the amount of $4,200, different from the other officials because this comes from health funds rather than public officials. The salary has been $1,250 per month plus $175 for each death investigation done. Deputy coroners receive $900 per month and the medical examiner can receive some special fees such as examining SIDS deaths or being required to testify in court. The medical examiner-investigator is required to be on call 24 hours a day.

Some official salaries are based on assessed valuation, some on population and some vary by different fees paid in and are simply capped by the legislature.

Supervisors took action on a couple of matters that have been pending for some time, including building renovation.

Courthouse and jail renovation

After several months, supervisors accepted a bid that will include putting a new roof on the old county jail and doing brick repair work to the courthouse exterior.

Hill’s Construction of Water Valley was low bidder with a cost of $239,000, 80 percent of which will be paid for with a grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. That will leave about $47,800 to be paid by the county. The next lowest bid was more than $300,000.

This was after the second round of bidding. The first bids came in too high for the amount of money available so supervisors had the architect talk with bidders and modify plans to reduce cost. Even so, only the base bid was accepted Monday, and not with any alternates and it was not made clear exactly what work would be included in the final accepted bid.

Jail surveillance system

The county board also voted on purchasing a new surveillance system for the county jail, a matter that had been delayed, as was the courthouse renovation bid.

This delay was also a cost-saving measure.

Supervisors at first advertised for bids on the system through a reverse auction, assuming it would cost more than $50,000, the minimum amount requiring bids.

Initially, what appeared to be the better bid was about $400 higher and by using the auction system supervisors would be bound by the low bid.

However, officials learned the system could be purchased for less than $50,000 so the board voted to reject the higher bids and get two quotes instead. This also allowed them to accept a quote that likely would afford better support and service.

The low quote was for $45,000 from General Informations of Jackson. Sheriff Edwards said some money allocated to Tiger Correctional could be used so the actual new cost would only be about $25,000.

Personnel

In personnel, Sheriff Jimmy Edwards received permission to make personnel changes in his department.

That includes:

  • Transferring William Blake Smith from dispatcher to full-time deputy.
  • Transferring Gunner Higgins from dispatcher to full-time deputy.
  • Chancing Jacob Benefield from part-time to full-time dispatcher.
  • Hiring Edward Delangelo Williams as part-time jailer.
  • Hiring Ebony M. Mejia as part-time jailer.
  • Hiring Jason Hurtis McCord as part-time jailer.

Road closing

In miscellaneous business, supervisors initially voted to close and abandon a section of County Road 272 but then decided to take the matter under advisement because some more work is needed.

The dead-end road has only two property owners, who had asked to close the road because they were the only legal users and had trouble with trespassers tearing up property on ATVs. Supervisor Sam Taylor said he had repaired the road only to go back the next day to see it torn up.

Supervisors decided it would be better to wait until a gate and fence were installed before trying once again to clean up the road one last time and close it. Once closed, it will be up to the two property owners to perform any maintenance.

Other business

In other business, the board approved hiring Barney Hodges to appraise the building at 102 North Camp Street, the former John Pennebaker law office, which is being purchased to provide office space for the district attorney’s office. The district attorney’s staff was in the old jail but work was hampered by the lack of space and poor condition of the building.

Supervisors passed, without discussion, the consent agenda. That includes the claims docket, past month’s minutes, roadwork schedule, jail meal log, medical examiner’s fees and solid waste register.

The board had received some bids on limestone and cold mix for next year, but took the bids under advisement because they are negotiating with the companies.

Among other minor items, Sheriff Edwards received approval to spend up to $2,966 to return a prisoner from Oregon. Edwards said the prisoner, not a Union County native, is facing several charges including sexual battery of person under 18. U. S. Marshals located the man and can take care of transporting him back here at a lower cost than using an outside transport company. Sheriff Edwards said they probably would not have wanted to return someone for a minor charge but this was severe enough to warrant the expense.

The board approved money for attendance, travel and lodging for deputy assessors Josh Creekmore and Logan Nobles to each attend one certification course, one Jan. 25-29 in Starkville and the other in Ridgeland Feb. 8-12.

In monthly business supervisors approved paying the circuit clerk for holding court and acting as county registrar, the five election commissioners for their per diem fees and providing the county’s share of a raise to the circuit court law clerk shared by the counties in the district.

The next scheduled meeting of the board of supervisors will be at 10 a.m. Monday, Dec. 21. District Two Supervisor Chad Coffey was absent Monday.

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