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From Staff Reports
The Greene County Supervisors held one of its busier meetings of the year on Monday with a full agenda and an assortment of issues and visitors to consider.
To follow are some of the highlights from that meeting.
BOS agrees to extend air ambulance contract
Supervisors on Monday agreed to new contract terms with Air Methods for air ambulance services in the county. The county has had a longstanding relationship with South Mississippi Air Ambulance District (SEMAAD – Rescue 7) and began this program in recent years to try to ensure that county residents did not incur large medical bills when an air ambulance outside the SEMAAD program is used. Last year the contract with Air Methods cost the county $33,805. The new contract will be on an actual cost basis. Air Methods Regional Business Development Manager Bryan Bates told supervisors that under the new contract proposal Air Methods would continue to bill private insurance for medical aircraft flights as it has in the past, but that Greene County would pay no more than $700 per incident. Based on historical data, Bates said his company expects the county would pay around $5,500 in the coming year and that the total expenditures would be capped at the previous contract amount of $33,805. Supervisors approved the proposed contract unanimously.
Gas plant requests review of tax bill
Supervisors received a request for reappraisal from Plains All American Gas concerning the property tax valuation for Southern Pines Energy Center. Officials with the company asked that supervisors re-assess PAA for the 2019 and 2018 tax years based on a 2005 memorandum of understanding between PAA and the county and issue refunds for what the company maintains were tax overpayments for the 2016 and 2017 tax years.
At issue is how ‘base gas’ within the caverns at Southern Pines is valued. Base gas, PAA officials say, is the minimal amount of gas required to remain in the caverns to maintain the caverns’ integrity and desired pressure.
County officials said they believe the assessments are correct. However, supervisors took the request from PAA under advisement and voted to extend the tax assessment hearing until Aug. 19 at 9 a.m. when the board will reconvene.
PAA has been operating under 10-year tax abatement plans agreed to by supervisors when the facility was first constructed and again when it was expanded. The initial tax abatement plan, which limited what local taxes the company would pay during the 10-year life of the agreement, expired recently and county officials were counting on a big boost in tax revenues this year in large part because of that.
New Head Start center hits snag
Supervisors voted to transfer roughly $50,000 from the county’s hospital revenue fund to the Dist. 2 road fund to cover costs incurred in the site prep for a new Head Start facility planned for State Line. Supervisors had previously agreed to partner with Friends of Children of Mississippi for the project and Dist. Two Supervisor Morris Hill had paid for site work completed in State Line through his road district funds.
However, a question of the legality of that move has arisen. Supervisors met in a lengthy executive session on Monday, which included FCM officials as well as a handful of community members from the State Line area, to discuss the legal questions. After coming out of the meeting, supervisors voted 5-0 to transfer the funds back to Dist. 2 and to continue to move forward with the planned building, but instructed board attorney Roun McNeal to research the legal questions and come back to the board with options.
Supervisors hope to have answers to the concerns soon so they can move ahead with soliciting bids for the metal building they plan to erect on the site in State Line. Supervisor Hill pushed McNeal to move swiftly as the county had already expended funds on the project and did not want to lose that money or derail or slow down the project.
Judge Beard starts retirement earlier than expected
In an unexpected move on Monday, supervisors accepted the immediate retirement of longtime Justice Court Judge L. Joe Beard.
Beard had announced his planned retirement earlier this year and is not seeking re-election. However, the original plan was for him to work through the remainder of the current term and step away from the bench in January when a newly-elected judge is sworn into office. However, due to a misunderstanding with the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), Beard advised board members he would have to nix that plan and enter retirement immediately.
Supervisors were understanding of the situation and approved the move unanimously. A new judge will need to be appointed to fill the remaining four months of the term, but board members did not indicate on Monday who they intended to appoint to the post or when that appointment would be made.
Three Democrats and one Republican were on Tuesday’s ballots seeking the post.
Next meeting set
Supervisors will reconvene on Aug. 19 at 9 a.m. to complete the mandated public hearing for tax roll / property valuations. The agenda for that day is supposed to be limited to that issue.
The board is scheduled to meet again to pay claims and handle other items of interest at 9 a.m. Monday, Aug. 26.