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County supervisors halt construction of new Emergency Operations Center pending audit and engineering review
By RUSSELL TURNER
A second building project by the Greene County Board of Supervisors is now on indefinite hold as county leaders assess how best to move forward to meet state and federal building requirements previously not considered.
Construction on the county’s new Emergency Operation Center, which when completed was intended to include the county’s 911 emergency call center, were shut down indefinitely last week after concerns arose over payment of several invoices and compliance with construction codes and standards for the public facility.
Attorney Paul Walley, who is serving as legal counsel to the supervisors in the absence of attorney Roun McNeal, said supervisors are at a point where they are obtaining engineering services before they go any further.
County officials did not obtain detailed plans or architectural drawings prior to beginning construction on the facility late last year. Instead, construction began using plans for a similar building in another area of the state. The plan, which was intended to stretch county dollars, was to use the county’s prison construction crew, led by former supervisor Vince West, to do as much of the work as possible.
During last Wednesday’s meeting of the board, questions arose about the project while supervisors met with engineer Jason Lamb, of the county’s engineering firm The Walker Associates, about several road and bridge projects in the county. Lamb told the county officials he had toured the construction site and that since the project will exceed certain thresholds in terms of the overall cost of the facility, that additional considerations have to be taken to ensure the facility is constructed to the proper standard, in relation to construction integrity issues, such as resistance to hurricane force winds. There are also other considerations, such as compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines and electrical and communication infrastructures configurations.
Lamb made several recommendations to supervisors including:
– secure services of a structural engineer to make a determination if the building design and construction meet minimum design criteria for the type of use intended;
– get an architect’s evaluation to see if the plan conforms with Life Safety Standards and ADA requirements;
– secure services of an electrical engineer to determine special electrical requirements for equipment to be used in the facility and to draft appropriate plans and specifications for the installation of electrical components and emergency backups;
– and, do a field analysis to verify interior and exterior building dimensions, space utilization, and points of egress so that a dimensionally accurate floor plan and CAD drawing could be provided to the project professionals that would be consulted.
After hearing from Lamb, Dist. 4 Supervisor Wayne Barrow made a motion to hire Lamb’s company to do the field analysis and schematic drawings recommended. That motion failed for a lack of a second.
Dist. 2 Supervisor Elton Clark then made a motion to put the issue on hold until all questions are answered. That motion was seconded by Dist. 3 Supervisor Danny Smith and passed unanimously.
After a lengthy executive session to consider personnel matters, and presumably questions about the 911 center, supervisors voted to pay The Walker Associates up to $3,500 for the field analysis and schematic drawings.
Clark then made a motion to take several invoices related to the 911 construction project under advisement until they could be reviewed by state auditors. The claims involved were from Southern Comfort, Southern Ready Mix, Al Roberts, Davis Hardware and Ash Mill Works. Clark’s motion was seconded by Smith and passed on a 3-2 vote with Dist. 5 Supervisor Gary Fairley also voting in favor. Barrow and Dist. 1 Supervisor G.L. Dearman voting against the measure.
When asked about the issue on Tuesday, Clark simply said he voted to put construction of the 911 center on hold and expects it to stay that way until supervisors hear from the state auditor’s office.
When supervisors voted to construct the 911 facility last November they planned to pattern the building after one built in Noxubee County. At that time West advised supervisors he believed the building could be built for approximately $126,200 using his crew. It was not clear at press time Tuesday what the total expenditure on the project has been to date.
The planned facility in the industrial park just off Miss. 63 would house the county’s 911 call center and emergency dispatchers as well as the administrative offices for the 911 system and the county’s Emergency Management Agency. The current 911 call center is housed in a small room at the Greene County Jail and officials say the new facility is needed because that setup is outdated and inadequate for the county’s growing needs.
Head Start project still under review
The 911 center is the second construction project county leaders have had to put on hold. In early February supervisors put construction of a new Head Start facility in State Line on indefinite hold due to concerns over purchasing procedures related to the project.
During a special meeting on Feb. 4, supervisors voted to cease all construction activity on the Friends of Children site in State Line and to put all outstanding purchase orders related to the project on hold as well. Payments for unpaid invoices related to the project were held pending further review and all contractors associated with the project were notified of the board’s action in writing.
The Herald reached out to State Auditor Shad White’s office on Monday, but was told by a spokesperson that the auditor’s office does not confirm or comment on any ongoing or potential investigations.
BOS approves 2nd Amendment Sanctuary resolution for county
In other business last week, supervisors heard from Richard Dykes, owner and operator of Second Amendment Guns and Repair, addressed the board and asked them to sign a resolution declaring Greene County a Sanctuary Second Amendment County, ensuring that all citizens’ right to own firearms shall not be infringed upon in any way.
Smaller items on the agenda were the approval of an indigent burial in Dist. 2, district barn inventory removal, publication of the audit synopsis and meals for county jail inmates totaling $3,722.
A bigger item on the agenda was the repair of the roof to the supervisor’s building next to the courthouse. A problematic roof has caused leaks in the building needing repair. West gave the board two bid options, though neither option satisfied the board as a full solution to the issue. Further inquiry will be done to see if any other options are available and at what cost.
County engineer Jason Lamb gave the board a lengthy address concerning state aid funds for road and bridge repairs within the county. The bridge on Kate James Road was at the center of discussion. Lamb explained to the board that $290,000 in state aid funds will remain tied up until the board can make a decision on how to move forward on the road. The county can enter a formal roadway abandonment process which will allow the state aid funds to be used on other projects around the county, or the board can choose to repair or rebuild the bridge with state aid funds. However, as Lamb noted to the board, the $290,000 will not be enough to repair or replace the bridge, leaving the remaining bill to county taxpayers. Should the county abandon the road as a state aid bridge, remaining bridge components must be removed and any structure build at the site will come from county funds, though Lamb discussed with the board several low-water crossing options that could come with a lesser price tag for the county.
Greene County Emergency Management Director Trent Robertson addressed the board about making Mathis Lane in Dist. 4 a private drive, and the board approved the motion. Robertson also addressed the board about the global outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus. In an effort to ensure the county is prepared to handle an outbreak situation in the county, Robertson said he will call for a tabletop exercise in the coming days.
On Monday, supervisors met for their regular March meeting and covered a brief agenda.
The board heard from McLain Mayor Steve McLuskey about flooding concerns for the municipality and approved a resolution in support of MDOT placing a control gate on culverts under U.S. 98 that allows flood waters in under high-water conditions. McCluskey told supervisors during the last big flood there was over five feet more water on the town side of Miss. 57 than on the river side of the highway.