County contracts with architectural firm

By Russell Hood The Webster Progress-Times

Webster County supervisors decided last week to contract with a local architectural firm in conjunction with a grant to refurbish the Doss Building. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History has awarded the county a $117,000 grant to restore the building, which the county has owned since August 2006. According to discussion at the May 7 Board of Supervisors meeting, the Mississippi Landmark leaks and needs reroofing. The board voted 4-1 in March to enter into a related memorandum of agreement with the Mississippi Community Heritage Preservation Grant Program to refurbish the building. The county agreed to spend $29,250 as its 20 percent match for the project. On April 2, intern architect Charlotte Fairley asked supervisors to sign a contract with Belinda Stewart Architects for grant administration, which will be based on a percentage of the total construction cost. The board voted to take the proposed contract under advisement until May 7. Supervisors discussed the matter at length with Stewart and Fairley at last week’s meeting. Stewart said the original application for the grant that the former Webster County Development Council used to buy the building (before deeding it to the county) was written for rural- based economic development. It was used one summer for a farmers’ market and Stewart mentioned its possible use as a commercial kitchen for growers. She also said part of it could be brought up to par and used as “swing space” for a development center for entrepreneurs and small businesses. The board acknowledged that the county received a $40,000 insurance payment for wind damage to the roof, but that the money was not set specifically set aside for roof repairs and was instead used for other county purposes. When board members expressed concerns about the cost to the county for its share of the renovation costs, Stewart emphasized that that bid specifications could include alternates to reduce the cost. She also said the county could repair just the worst part of the roof at this time, which is the southeast side. “I guarantee you we won’t make any money on this project, “ Stewart said. “Our goal is to save the building.” The board eventually voted 4-1 to enter into a contract with Stewart’s firm for the project and directed her to advertise for bids. Paul Crowley (District 4) voted nay, but all of the supervisors approved a separate motion to enter into a Preservation Maintenance Covenant with MDA for the Doss Building. The board emphasized that it wanted to ensure the county does not get an invoice for the firm’s work until after Oct. 1, when the next budget year starts. Other Business John Campbell of Starkville met with the board to discuss his possible purchase of the old Red Kap building as a manufacturing site for his “Bunker Bed” invention. He asked if the taxes could be waived for one year if he bought the building. Supervisors, after obtaining information from the tax assessor’s office, told Campbell the current owner owes two years’ worth of property taxes plus interest, in addition to the 2011 taxes when they become due. The board took no action and Campbell said he would get back with the owner regarding the back taxes. The board accepted a $53,750 bid from Doss Electric for the purchase and installation of a power backup generator system and rejected two others received on April 30, when they were taken under advisement. Precision Communication had a lower bid at $49,175. However, its bid was rejected because the company has no electrical license from the state Board of Contractors, as stipulated in the bid specifications. After meeting with George Crawford of the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District, the board set a grant application public hearing for 10 a.m. May 31. District 3 is applying for a USDA Rural Development grant to buy a tractor. The grant requires a 35 percent match. April 16: In unreported business from its April 16 meeting, supervisors approved two motions related to the April 2011 tornado. One was to designate Crowley to sign an application on behalf of the county to obtain financial assistance under the Federal Disaster Relief Act of 1974. The other was to enter into a contract with Regions to finance the outstanding balance of disaster relief funds, $325,733.10, which is for debris cleanup. April 30: Minutes show supervisors voted April 30 to accept the resignation of Faye Ford as District 5 election commissioner as of April 18. Her letter of resignation states she was resigning because of health issues. The board then voted to appoint Daphne McKibben as District 5 election commissioner to fill Ford’s unexpired term until the general election in November. McKibben was retroactively authorized to attend a certification seminar in Jackson on April 24-25. The board voted to recognize the recusal of both county Justice Court judges in the case of Page Huffman vs. Phillip Smith and instruct the board attorney to request the appointment of a special justice court judge by a circuit judge. Huffman, of Stewart, has charged Smith, 51, with misdemeanor stalking. Deputies arrested him Jan. 23 and he was released that day upon posting a $2,000 bond, according to county jail records. Smith served as sheriff from 2008-11. In other action April 30, the board voted to: • allow the District 5 supervisor and road crew to enter upon Lamar Yarborough’s property to clean a drainage ditch so water will not collect on Parker Roberson Road. • advertise for yearly materials and services, and construction bids; bids will be opened June 4. • adopt a resolution granting an exemption from ad valorem taxes for 10 years to Plymouth Tube on 2011 personal property additions, in the amount of $949,614.39. Final approval of exemption is pending approval by the Mississippi Department of Revenue. • allow Constable Jeff McMinn to attend an associational meeting at Gulfport on June 4-9. • hire Watkins, Ward and Stafford to compile financial statement of activities and fund information for the county for the year ending Sept. 20, 2011, paying them up to a maximum of $8,000. Marshall Bailey, lessee of 426.5 acres of 16th Section agricultural land, appeared before the board. Also meeting with supervisors with county Engineer Karl Grubb and 911 Director Jimmy McLemore.