Mississippi’s prison crisis is starting to put a pinch on garbage collection in Leflore County.

As a result, the Board of Supervisors on Monday approved an emergency lease purchase of two new garbage trucks to make up for the reduction in inmate labor.

Many of the state’s prison facilities have been on lockdown following a recent outbreak of violence that resulted in the deaths of five inmates and others injured in what authorities believe are gang-related conflicts.

Whenever the Mississippi Department of Corrections orders a lockdown, which has become increasingly frequent, that also curbs Leflore County’s access to the free labor of state inmates being held at the Leflore County Technical Violation Center, the former home of Delta Correctional Facility.

“With the lockdown of some of the inmate labor this county has become accustomed to, and no longer having that labor, ... in addition to not knowing exactly when they may bring that back, trash pickups, for sanitation reasons, have to be done,” said Joyce Chiles, the board attorney.

The new trucks have a purchase price of about $210,000. The plan, according to District 1 Supervisor Sam Abraham, is to acquire these and sell two older garbage trucks that the county will be paying off in March.

On a related note, the board continued to discuss the problem of unpaid garbage bills, which are estimated to have piled up to at least $1.3 million.

Jimmy Gibson, director of  the Solid Waste Department, said it has begun sending out notices for overdue garbage bills two months in advance to try and corral the growing debt problem.

Annie Conley, the county’s tax collector, said that she is now withholding car tags for people who have not paid their garbage bills.

In recent meetings of the board, Conley has given conflicting reports over whether she has been doing this, as the supervisors have wanted.

The board also went into another executive session with Angela Curry, executive director of the Greenwood-Leflore Industrial Board, to discuss a potential anchor tenant for the business incubator building the county owns. The facility, which is located in Itta Bena across U.S. 82 from Mississippi Valley State University, has been underutilized for years. No action was taken during the 45-minute closed-door session, Board President Robert Collins reported.

In other business, John Ray, an entertainment promoter from Birmingham, discussed upcoming blues events he would like to put on in coming years at Florewood Park.

Ray held an initial concert there in 2019.

He proposed a four-year contract, concurrent with the length of the current board’s terms, that would allow him to hold two blues events a year. He also proposed that no other blues event could be held at the park 60 days prior to or 60 days after each of his events, totaling 240 blockout days.

Ray clarified that other musical genres, such as country, would be allowed to schedule events within the blockout period.

The board elected to table the discussion until its next meeting, scheduled for Jan. 27, so Ray could draw up a more precise contract.

Abraham expressed approval for Ray’s idea.

“We have got to provide the citizens of this community with some kind of entertainment,” the supervisor said.

Contact Kerrigan Herret at 581-7233 or kherret@gwcommonwealth.com.

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