Improving the quality of life in Leflore County was the overriding theme of Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, specifically in the areas of education, emergency medical response and neighborhood improvement.
District 3 Supervisor Anjuan Brown kicked off a discussion of the recent F accountability rating from the state for Leflore County schools, expressing concern that the state takeover of county schools has failed. The district has been under conservatorship since October 2013.
“I am concerned whether conservatorship is working,” Brown said. “I think it’s not.”
Brown proposed that the board, as the taxing authority for the schools, send a resolution to the governor and Mississippi Department of Education expressing those concerns.
“We’re letting down teachers, we’re letting down those taxpayers who come to us and demand better, and most importantly, we’re letting down our children,” he said.
Brown also expressed concern about the state-mandated consolidation of Greenwood public schools with Leflore County schools, scheduled for 2019-20.
“I hope our government or somebody will send a team down to study the feasibility of the merger plan when one of the systems is failing,” he said.
Board President and District 4 Supervisor Wayne Self said his concern is that “excellent certified teachers are leaving.
“Don’t run my folks out and bring in people who don’t know anything about it,” he said.
Self expressed the opinion that the county schools from which he graduated were better off before the state took over.
District 1 Supervisor Sam Abraham recommended bringing someone from the state to a meeting of the supervisors.
“We need to hear from someone to tell us what they’re going to do,” he said.
District 2 Supervisor Robert Moore said anyone who understands the history of Mississippi and the region “knows how we got here.” Moore said the board needs to use whatever influence it has to encourage a change in administration at the county schools, and he urged that parental involvement is key.
“On my radio show, every week when we’re discussing problems with the schools, somebody calls in and says the parents have got to be more involved,” Moore said.
“The parents have got to be involved in curriculum, in the schools, with their children’s education and with the administration.”
The board approved that a resolution be sent to Gov. Phil Bryant and the Mississippi Department of Education, saying that conservatorship is not working and that before consolidation takes place a study team needs to come to Leflore County to see if a merger is feasible.
The board also discussed an incident with MedStat in which a Leflore County deputy was flagged down on Highway 7 last weekend and an ambulance was called.
Sgt. Michael Baldwin told supervisors that a tire on an 18-wheeler burst and broke the window of a car on the highway, cutting the person inside.
When county dispatch contacted MedStat, they were told that both ambulances in the county were busy delivering someone to the hospital. The family of the injured passenger took that to mean an ambulance was not coming, canceled the request and instead transported her to the hospital on their own.
MedStat Chief of Operations Dave Eldridge told supervisors that both ambulances in the county were in use. He said the ambulance that was at Greenwood Leflore Hospital nonetheless responded to the call in less than three minutes but aborted when the request was canceled.
Eldridge and other MedStat employees said they told the dispatcher it would take a few minutes because the ambulance was busy but didn’t say they couldn’t come. They described the incident as a miscommunication between county dispatch and the family and added that their response times in both the city and county have improved significantly over the last month. County supervisors have been monitoring those response times for several months.
The discussion was tabled until the sheriff’s office can produce its tapes of the incident.
County Ordinance Officer Otis Abron appeared before the board to follow up on a request to institute a new ticketing system for code violations on residential properties. Abron was responding to complaints of unauthorized commercial use of residential property, neighborhood junk yards and neglected properties.
Attorney Joyce Chiles said she and Abron had come up with an ordinance they believed would meet the board’s requirements.
“A ticket will be issued that will give a property owner one opportunity to clean up,” Chiles said. “If they don’t, then their case will be taken to Justice Court.”
Chiles and Abron asked for the board’s guidance in setting penalties for violations and received permission to discuss the new ordinance with county judges to make sure there were no legal problems with it.
County employees will see a small increase in quality of life with a $75 pay increase approved by supervisors. All employees — with the exception of those in the Unit System, which has already implemented raises for its workers — will see $75 added to their paychecks, or about $900 per year, an amount that was referred to by Moore as “a start.”
In other county business:
nThe board tabled a request to compete paving of the Browning walking track. The track crosses private property, and the board concurred that until purchase of the property by the county is complete, working on the area in question is not a good idea.
nJohn Wiggers of North Central Planning and Development District asked supervisors to sign a grant request with Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality extending the waste tire collection program at the county. Wiggers also reported that there has been no progress on Mississippi Home grants, and that he is waiting for state inspectors to come and look at properties that have been identified for those home improvement grants.
nCounty Fire Coordinator Bobby Norwood asked for and received approval from supervisors to establish fire grading districts in the county within a five-mile radius of county fire stations. Homeowners in each district have already signed petitions to move forward with the districting that will ultimately be used in an attempt to lower fire insurance rates across the county. Norwood said the county is classified Class 10 now and Greenwood is a Class 4, offering its residents better breaks on insurance rates. Norwood hopes to bring down the fire ratings in each of the established county districts.
Norwood also secured permission to apply for a Homeland Security grant that, if approved, would give the county $1.5 million to purchase three new trucks and needed breathing equipment. The grant requires a 5 percent match by the county.
nA resolution from Gov. Phil Bryant ordered that flags on all government buildings be flown at half mast through Sunday in honor of the 26 killed in a mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
•Contact Kathryn Eastburn at 581-7235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.