City of Magee gets state funding for sewer work

By PAT BROWN,

The City of Magee has received funding for city sewer improvements from the State of Mississippi. The news was announced at last week’s Board of Aldermen meeting.

The funds were deposited with PriorityOne Bank because they offered a better interest rate than Trustmark, which is the City’s depository. 

City Clerk Lane Yearby, said she contacted both Trustmark and PriorityOne for bids.  Trustmark offered .01 percent and PriorityOne offered .75 percent.  Alderman Whitney Baker, who is employed by PriorityOne, left the room during discussion and the vote to do business with PriorityOne.  Mayor Dale Berry explained that a separate account had to be established and maintained for the funds from the state. 

Board Attorney Bruce Smith was asked via text message if the decision to open the account required legal notification.  He responded that he did not think so but was researching the matter.   

Berry said he was following the directives of a representative of the state on opening the account and did not know it required going through the bid process. 

The low bid for service to the city from Control Systems was approved in the amount of $38,201.  The other bids were Hawk for $49,500 and Dexter Fortron in the amount of $48,594. 

This equipment will operate the pumping stations for the city’s water tanks.  The city’s bills had recently become excessive from the use of dedicated phone lines which were constantly on for monitoring.  The new system operates on radio frequencies and the cost of the new system will be recouped  in less than a year. 

The city approved raising the rates for water,  sewer and garbage pickup for apartments and trailer parks. 

The regular garbage collection fee will apply to each dwelling if the city picks up the trash.  The board approved a new rate for multi-structured family dwellings.  The new rate will be $15 each, starting in January.  This is compared to residential which is about $30 per dwelling.   The rationale is that apartments or trailers do not use as much water as a single-family home. 

Berry reported that weather had been a holdup on completion of the runway work being done at the airport but that the leveling project was near completion.  Alderman Whitney Baker reported that the Simpson County Development Foundation had held a reception at the airport and the turnout was good. 

Bids were opened for cutting grass on city-maintained property.  The original bids were thrown out because, according to Mayor Berry, many of the businesses would have  to make sizable investments for equipment to provide services requested so the city re-advertised the five areas for mowing for a three-year period rather than the original five years.  Only three bids were submitted this time compared to six to seven the last time.  In this year’s budget the city budgeted $43,000 for cutting grass.  The mayor said this included equipment as well as additional labor. 

The bids were as follows:  Wenger

YMCA $14,400 

Washington P.  $7,470

Cemetery $27,270

McNair Spr.  $14,850

Hwy. 49 $39,600

This represents the city’s request for 18 cuts per year.  Wenger bid on all parcels.  Other vendors did not.  Wenger’s total was $103,230 per year for three years. 

Phillip Peacock

McNair Spr. $21,800

Cemetery $18,000

YMCA $7,200

Washington P. $4,800

Total bid, which did not include Highway 49, is $51,800 per year. 

Kevin Williams

Washington P $250 per cutting, requested 18 cuttings, $4,500 per year. 

This year city leaders said they did not have enough help to keep the grass cut and started cutting in August.  The previous year they cited “too much rain to cut grass.”  Former administrations had maintained the grass with help from prison labor.  The new adminstration lost the labor but were aware this was going to happen when the state’s satellite jail closed. 

The city had bid for the purchase of a new garbage truck, budgeting for $150,000 for it.  However, bids came in higher than expected.  The closest bid was $156,450.  Rebecca Cummings representing the low bidder said that her company agreed to reduce the bid to meet with the city’s budgeted figure.   

The board heard from Bob Lowe, a resident living near McNair Springs Park.  He told the board that the emergency warning siren located in the park did  not work and it had been a long time since it had worked properly.  Lowe told the board he considered this to be a life and death situation because the siren was to alert residents of bad weather and the board should maintain the equipment properly.  He reported that he had spoken with Joe Worrell, Emergency Management coordinator for the City of Magee, and was told there was no money for repairing the system.  The board discussed whether the problem had to do with the canopy of trees over the siren blocking the signal.  Lowe said if the power was out it would not work anyway. 

At the last board meeting aldermen discussed  moving the siren to the ball park across from Bigland Heights that could still serve the area.  The board agreed to explore different options related to the siren before spending a lot of money on the system. 

Lowe also informed the board of leaning trees in the park that create the risk of falling and injuring  people or property.  Alderman Lane Steele said he had removed some trees there in the past. 

The board heard from Darrell Sartin, with Southern Procurement.  Sartin told the board about the way his company does the reverse auction process, which is the new way mandated by the State of Mississippi to obtain bids which are over $50,000 for services and materials. 

Sartin told the board that it costs the city nothing to do live time reverse auction bidding, which replaced the sealed bid process that had been the gold standard for years. 

His company charges the companies who bid products 3 to 4 percent of the merchandise price.  This is different from other companies who receive fees for each bid submitted.  The city plans to use Southern Procurement for the purchase of a limb truck.  This was part of the proposed budget for the current budget year. 

Mayor Berry had discussed problems with parking on Main Avenue across from Music City during the time that The Vault restaurant was serving lunch.  Board members discussed  limiting the number of parking spaces per business and reserving that number.  It was stated that this was a good problem to have because it meant that customers were attracted to downtown businesses.  It was announced that The Vault was now for sale and no longer serving lunch so the parking issue may be settled. 

The board had previously discussed demolishing an abandoned home at 571 Simpson 149.  The owner had been in a nursing home in Newton, but the officer serving notification could not locate the owner because he had subsequently moved.  The board was to send the officer back to Newton to locate the owner. 

The property also has a tax lien against it, leaving the city in a quandary as to what to do about the property. 

Magee Police Chief Randy Crawford reported recent police actions to the board.  Since July a total of 50 drug related cases have been presented to the district attorney’s office which were criminal investigations.  A total of 55 narcotics cases have been investigated since July, and a total of 516 arrests have been made during the current year. 

The board approved taking Vernon Dampeer from part time to full time in the Magee Police Department.  Dampeer will take the position of Joey Shows, who tendered his resignation. 

Crawford requested that one of his officers be given a one dollar raise. 

Alderman Patrick Brown asked to see an organizational chart for the department.  He also said that in the past officers had to appear before a promotions board before they could be promoted.  He indicated that the board should have more input into the Police Department.  Crawford told the board he would be happy to provide whatever they wanted. 

The board has hired a law firm to help them with the development of an employment handbook for city employees.  It was mentioned that some of the issues the board wanted of the police department could be adopted in the employee handbook. 

A board workshop will be held to discuss the adoption of the handbook on December 5, at 4:30.  The meeting is open to the public.