In split vote, supervisors agree to buy search and rescue boat

NEMiss.News Split vote on boat
Recently-elected board president Steve Watson, facing camera, leads Tuesday's board meeting.


The Union County Board of Supervisors decided to purchase a rescue boat for the emergency management department in a spilt vote Tuesday.

Although it was not specifically mentioned, the move likely came in part because of the extensive water search still being carried on for Jessica Stacks, who was reported missing in the Tallahatchie River bottom New Year’s Day.

Until now, whenever a boat was needed, county officials have had to borrow one from citizens or agencies in other counties.

Of three quotes submitted, one from Pin Tail Duck Boats of Batesville appeared to be low at $11,323 for the boat, motor and trailer. One other quote for a similar package was slightly higher and the third at more than $12,000 was for a much heavier boat.

Emergency Management Director Curt Clayton said that although the higher-priced boat may have been superior, it weighed nearly twice as much as the others and would not be practical for river use here.

The Pin Tail Phowler 16-foot boat will be custom-built for Union County. Clayton said it is a shallow water design, has a dive rescue platform, has a removable work light tower for night rescues and comes with a 25-hp Yamaha motor.

District Four Supervisor Randy Owen said he didn’t think we need one with only one body of water, the Tallahatchie River, and did not think it would be needed enough to be justified.

Clayton responded that boats have been needed much more than supervisors are aware. “Every time it floods we have to go out two or three times,” he said, to rescue people who have driven vehicles into floodwaters. Mud Creek was specifically mentioned although roads get under water all along the Tallahatchie, especially on County Road 46 and 47.

Now, rescuers have to back up high-priced fire trucks into the water and have people go in on ropes and wearing life jackets to rescue those stranded. Having to borrow a boat and get it in the water may sometimes delay a search by hours.

Although rare, drownings do occur as well as rescues, he said.

When asked about how boats could help getting vehicles out, Clayton said, “We get the people out, we don’t care about the vehicles.”

Owen introduced a motion to take the matter under advisement but that failed for lack of a second and District Two Supervisor Chad Coffey moved to take the low bid. That motion passed three to one with Owen opposing and District Three Supervisor C.J. Bright abstaining.

Bright said that he did not necessarily disagree with the need for a boat, but rather about the specific type of boat being considered. He added that they had been using his personal boat during the course of the recent search so he was in no rush to purchase one when his was available.

Clayton added that the county was not eligible for a grant to pay for the boat because the county does not have a public boat ramp, but part of the cost might be reimbursed later.

It will be about six weeks before the boat arrives, he said.

In other business, the board approved advertising for a reverse auction for emulsion for cold mix, liquid asphalt and hot mix at the plant for roadwork this year. The auction, set for Feb. 17, will be restricted to plants in a 50-mile radius from New Albany. Reverse auctions have been sanctioned by the state about a year and allow bidders to submit subsequent lower bids than each other until they reach the minimum they will accept.

Supervisors also approved an agreement with the GM&O Rails-to-Trails Recreational District to reimburse Union County for maintenance costs for the trail and amended the road and bridge fund accordingly by $55,000.

In personnel, the board approved hiring Ronnie Herring for the road department and transferred Steven Allred from full-time deputy to full-time dispatcher at the sheriff’s department.

Also concerning the sheriff’s department, they amended the jail budget by $46,000 to pay for the new camera surveillance system. The present system is old and outmoded and a new system will add more reliability and features.

In miscellaneous business, supervisors approved the four-year road plan and temporary easements for the County Road 46 bridge project and Martintown Industrial Park sign installation.

Travel expenses were approved for the county election commissioners and circuit clerk to attend a meeting in Biloxi March 29 through April 1.

Before adjourning, the board went into executive session so that industrial recruiter Gary Chandler could provide updates on various prospects and interest in available industrial buildings in the county. No vote or action was reported as a result of the information.

The next scheduled meeting of the Union County Board of Supervisors will be at 10 a.m. Monday, Feb. 1.

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