County pursuing fire truck upgrades

By Russell Hood
The Webster Progress-Times

The Board of Supervisors is in the process of pursuing avenues of upgrading Webster County’s fire trucks.

The developments began when Mathiston Fire Chief Lee Gilliland and Assistant Chief Shane Box, county Fire Coordinator Barry Rushing and Michael Whitehead with Emergency Vehicle Services of Tupelo met with the board Feb. 4.

Gilliland addressed the board about problems with the Mathiston Volunteer Fire Department’s county fire truck, which he said will not pump water. Noting that the fire department does not receive county millage money because it is located in the town of Mathiston, he said the main question was how to fix the truck.

He and Whitehead discussed the possibility of the county entering into a service contract with EVS to repair and maintain all of the county fire departments’ trucks. Whitehead agreed to inspect the fire trucks at no charge to determine what repairs are needed and return his findings to the board.

The condition of most all of the county fire departments’ pumpers was discussed, particularly in light of last month’s courthouse fire. The fire trucks were obtained at the same time and are at least 20 years old. However, the village of Mantee was awarded a grant in 2008 for a new Class A pumper and Walthall has an active grant application for a new fire truck.

Supervisors discussed asking the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District to apply for fire truck-related grants on behalf of the county. They recessed until Feb. 7 with plans to further discuss the issue with representatives of local fire departments and legislative officials, and others.

Those present at the latter meeting included Rushing; Gilliland and Shaw of the Mathiston VFD (30-member roster); Keith Green of the Tomnolen VFD (25-member roster); Fire Chief Casey Henderson and Joe Hays of the Walthall VFD (25-member roster); Planner George Crawford of the GTPDD; Kelli Russell, field representative for U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee; and Derrick Surrette, executive director of the Mississippi Association of Supervisors.

Crawford, Russell and Surrette are helping the board try to find funding for fire trucks.

“We are looking at all avenues for funding” for at least seven fire trucks, board President Pat Cummings said in summarizing last Thursday’s meeting. “We looked at the state and federal level.”

City Courtroom
In other business last week, the supervisors voted Feb. 4 to buy a 1999 Ford Victoria from Calhoun County for $1 for the sheriff’s office.

On Feb. 7, Eupora Alderman at-large Dan Burchfield presented a modified interlocal agreement between the city and county for use of the municipal courtroom in the Community House. The courtroom is being used for chancery and youth courts (and possibly Circuit Court in the future if necessary) because of the courthouse fire.

“Y’all have $100,000 in relocation expenses (from the county’s property insurance),” Burchfield told supervisors in explaining one change the city board made to the agreement “on advice of counsel” when it approved the agreement Feb. 4.

That change was to ask the county to request money from its insurance carrier to cover the city’s electrical costs for the extra use of the Community House if any relocation funds are left over “at the end of the process.”

“We’re here to do anything that we can,” Burchfield said. The Board of Supervisors, with little discussion, did vote to enter into the agreement as modified by the city.
911 Dispatcher

Jimmy McLemore, county 911 director, informed supervisors on Feb. 7 that dispatcher Seth Mitchell had submitted his resignation to accept a new job.

The board accepted his resignation effective Feb. 19 and, upon McLemore’s recommendation, hired Heather Box as a full-time dispatcher effective Feb. 20. She is already a part-time 911 dispatcher.

Medir Inc.
Richard Greenlee, president of Jackson-based Medir Inc., met with the board Feb. 7. Medir is handling the restoration of records damaged in the courthouse fire, and the county has accepted its proposal for Phase 1 scanning/indexing of Chancery Court land records back to 1980.

Greenlee said documents that were being freeze-dried in a refrigerated trailer were shipped to Chicago on Feb. 6 for restoration.
The board was to meet again Wednesday.