Union County board agrees to make more information available to the public

NEMiss.News Union County Courthouse

 

The Board of Supervisors and other Union County officials are working to make more information about expenditures and other actions conveniently available to the taxpayers.

Those who have attended and tried to write news stories about the meetings of county boards, city boards, and school boards in Mississippi over many years, have observed that, when the meeting is over, they do not have much understanding of what has taken place. News reporters frequently look at each other at the end of the meeting and rhetorically ask: “What just happened? Who’s on first?”

The problem is simple. Board members arrive for meetings and most of them have already read and understand the details of the work that will be done during the meeting. They move quickly through the agenda items with little discussion about the things they are voting to do. The board members understand what they are doing. However, reporters and others attending the meeting have not had the opportunity to be briefed on the details of what is being done.

Public boards in Mississippi often have productive meetings during which they typically act on 20 or more agenda items in about that many minutes. Again, there is usually not enough discussion for observers to really understand what has taken place.

At the meeting of the Union County Board of Supervisors on January 3rd, Jerry Shiverdecker of NEMiss.News had asked to be on the agenda. He spoke on behalf of NEMiss.News, the New Albany Gazette and Kenny S Studio, the three news organizations who regularly cover and report on the meetings of the county board. He told the board and other county officials present, “We want to do a better job of informing our readers – your constituents – about the work of the county board.”

Shiverdecker asked that news reporters be given more detail on monthly expenditures – who is getting paid how much and what for.

General practice of the Union County board (and nearly every other public board in the state) is to have a single vote without discussion on what is called the “claims docket” – payments made to a variety of individuals and businesses who provide a wide range of goods and services to the county.

Mississippi boards also vote on fees paid to several different elected officials each month. Some county officials throughout Mississippi earn much of their income from fees for services rather than monthly salaries. Detail on these fees and copies of board minutes were among the items Shiverdecker mentioned while talking to the board.

The immediate response from Union County board members, the chancery clerk, and the board attorney was favorable. It was left at the January 3rd meeting that county officials would work on the best way to make the information available to reporters.

More information was made available in the form of additional detail on the meeting agenda by the time the Board of Supervisors met again on January 18.

County officials are continuing to work on the ways and methods by which more detail on county business can be made available to Union County taxpayers.

Following were among the items the Board of Supervisors dealt with at its January 18 meeting:

  • The board approved the state recommended mileage rate of 58.5 cents per mile for travel on county business in personal motor vehicles.
  • The board received sealed bids from three financial institutions in response to its call for bids to serve as depository for county funds. Bids were opened from BancorpSouth, BNA Bank and Renasant Bank. The board voted unanimously to take all three bids under advisement.
  • Having received professional opinions that American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds could be used for the purchase of automated solid waste equipment, the board voted unanimously to do so.
  • The state award for work on a bridge on County Road 81 (Davis Road/Airport Road) was $450,000, $50,000 more than the anticipated amount of $400,000. The board approved applying the additional $50,000 to the bridge project.
  • The board received and approved requests for payments of fees to the chancery clerk, the circuit clerk, the election commissioners and the medical examiner.

The next meeting of the Union County Board of Supervisors will be at 10 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022.

 

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NEMiss.NEWS is a locally owned and operated online news magazine containing news, information, opinion, etc. of interest to residents of Northeast Mississippi. NEMiss.NEWS was founded in 2014 and is a division of Shivimage, LLC, and began publishing in early 2015. read more>>

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