County considers land donation offer

By Russell Hood
The Webster Progress-Times

Webster County leaders are considering an offer of donated land on which to build a new courthouse in the county seat of Walthall.
During Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Randy Rico (District 3) made a motion to accept land at Walthall offered to the county by donation from R.H. Gary’s heirs as the site for the Webster County Courthouse and for any other county use, so long as the courthouse is built there.
But, following further discussion, the board voted to table Rico’s motion. Supervisors planned to contact the owners of adjacent property fronting Mississippi 9 before making a decision.
Gary’s heirs are his widow, Malloy Gary, and their children, Bubba Gary, Tom Gary, Don Gary and Joy Gary Boucher. The land they are offering to donate is approximately 10-12 acres on the northwest corner of the Mississippi 9 and Hays Road/Mississippi 784 intersection, according to the discussion.
Bubba and Tom Gary were present at the April 30 supervisors’ meeting but neither addressed the board, according to the minutes. Bubba Gary returned Monday and did not address the board before Rico offered his motion but did answer some questions from supervisors afterwards. Discussion among board members included the need to level some of the land if it is accepted.
The Board of Supervisors had previously approached the Walthall Board of Aldermen about the availability of 14.1 acres of land further south on the west side of the intersection of highways 9 and 50. The village of Walthall owns the land.
On April 21, supervisors received a memorandum from the village regarding a land swap proposed by the county board. The memo stated that the village would not be interested in a land swap which would provide that property to the county in exchange for the fire-damaged courthouse as is. The reason given was that this option would put a burden on the village because of the cost of cleanup or demolition of the property.
The memo went on to say that the Walthall Board had discussed the possibility of making a portion of the acreage available to the county at a fair cost if the county would provide detailed information and a commitment on what it is going to do with the current courthouse and square, keep the county court and offices in the village of Walthall at least to the extent that they were there before the January 2013 courthouse fire, acquire land only to the extent actually needed for the current courthouse or annex project and provide detailed information on how the land will be used.

RFQ Motion

In related business, public insurance adjuster Scott M. Favre appeared before the board on April 30, according to minutes of that meeting. He is presenting the county’s courthouse fire loss claim,
Records show the board voted afterwards to contact an architect to provide the Request for Qualifications for work on the courthouse project and to distribute the RFQ, once obtained, to architectural firms that might be interested in working on the project.

Other Action

Also Monday, the board met with Tax Assessor-Collector Barbara Gore concerning possible methods of notifying property owners about filing homestead exemption applications in the event of a spouse’s death — in addition to required newspaper notices that she runs each year before the deadline. Applications are taken Jan. 1-April 1 only.
Justice Court Clerk Janice Brunty presented an updated report on the Justice Court clearing account. Patricia Avent appeared before the board concerning a garbage billing matter.
Additionally, the board:

  • accepted the minutes of a HOME Program public hearing held April 21.
  • voted to sell a 2013 Mack tractor-truck owned by districts 3, 4 and 5, and directed the clerk to advertise for a new tractor-truck.
  • approved requests from Sheriff Tim Mitchell to hire Mark McCurdy of Mathiston as county fire investigator and Emily Humphries as a part-time jailer, and to allow deputies Justin Brown and Tommy Weeks to attend the spring STORM (Sobriety Trained Officers Representing Mississippi) Conference May 6-8 in Vicksburg and reimburse their expenses.

Minutes show that the board handled these matters during meetings on the respective dates. Other action on April 7 and 21 was reported in previous articles.

April 7

The board voted to hire Macon Mapping Co. to redraft and replace the 77 maps that were burned in the courthouse fire and amended the county Extension budget.

April 21

The board approved the hiring of Mark Whitaker and Landon Griffin as part-time deputies.

April 30

After Vice Mayor Jerry Gary addressed the board, supervisors voted to enter into an interlocal agreement between the city of Eupora and District 3 to assist in resurfacing part of Waterworks Road.
Supervisors also approved motions to:

  • apply for a grant from the USDA to fund emergency watershed projects on Rock Mountain, Old Dancy and Pepper roads.
  • accept the bid of Trak Traders of Brandon for the sale of District 3’s Case grader for $54,100 and remove it from the inventory. The bid was the highest of three received.
  • reappoint Larry Atkins to a five-year term as commissioner on the Mississippi Regional Housing Authority IV.
  • refund a tax buyer the amount paid at the tax sale because the taxes had been paid and the receipts had been lost in the courthouse fire. The parcels should not have gone through the tax sale.

The board was to meet again Wednesday morning.