City of Magee still evaluating parolee center

By PAT BROWN,

The City of Magee’s initial plan to turn the former corrections center into a sort of halfway house for parolees from the corrections system may have hit a snag as questions about the program continue to surface.

Initially, the program was to house male population in Simpson County.  The city received notice of a change in plans that the Magee facility was to be used for female parolees instead. 

City leaders requested to meet and discuss the changes with the Mississippi Offenders Re-Entry (MORE) program, which had brought the original request to operate the halfway house. 

Alderman Patrick Brown expressed concern as to whether there would be enough female inmates to keep the program viable.  He was to request a meeting with corrections personnel to confirm the accuracy of the information. 

 Magee resident Gaye Sullivan, who was attending the city board meeting, expressed concern as to whether the $2,500 a month rent that the city would receive from MORE was worth having a parolee facility in the community.  Mayor Berry stated that it would take up a vacant building and it was income.  He then said that the prison had been there all those years and it was good for the community, so much so that his father told the community to locate it next to where he lived, which the City did. 

Alderman Matthew Hickman said he has also had people contact him with concern as to whether a parolee center  was good for the community. 

With the knowledge that a deadline was looming for making a decision, Mayor Berry implored the board to go ahead and make that decision and “to let these people know if the city is interested in locating the facility in Magee.”  A special meeting of the board was to take place with the date to be announced prior to the meeting in two weeks.  At that meeting a representative from the Department of Corrections is supposed to be available to answer questions as to whether this project should be a viable option for the city. 

It was explained that if approved the Magee center would house up to 15 parolees who would come in monthly increments of five and would graduate and be moved to another part of the state after completing the six month program here.  During this time the residents would have a job and would receive training to help them adjust to life out of prison. 

In other business the board approved the development of a senior citizen center in the former YMCA facility.  Plans are to initially operate the facility with a board of volunteers until it is determined what types of programs are needed and wanted by members of the community. 

The board approved the acceptance of a check from PriorityOne Bank for the new facility in the amount of $10,000.  This will give naming rights to the bank, which has chosen to call the facility the PriorityOne Senior Center.  The city also appropriated $5,000 in their budget to assist with getting the facility up and running.  The city has not yet determined whether to provide part-time help  to operate the center. This will be determined once the programs are in operation. 

The board discussed  access to exercise machines as well as the walking track and other senior oriented activities and programs.  Members were told that the Meals on Wheels organization will be serving at this location once the center is open. 

City Recreation Director David Dunn reported to the board the costs associated with operating the high school baseball field in the sportsplex.  Dunn gave figures to the board based on utility bills for the complex and divided the annual cost by nine for the nine fields.  The annual power bill is $47,191.  The one ninth cost of that is $5,243. Water cost is estimated at $2,400 a year; top dressing for the field is $2,300 per year; fuel is $71 per year.  Miscellaneous materials were also addressed.  Spraying costs $2,000 for an annual estimated cost of $12,000 per year for the one field.  There are no labor costs because the coach of the ball team mows the field unless he needs help.  This also does not include equipment cost. 

The city had been receiving $15,000 per year from the school district for the use of the field.  That financial help was waived for one year when the new Magee Elementary School was built to help offset some of the costs associated with the building of the facility. 

The board also discussed the fact that the original agreement was for 10 years only.  This all surfaced when the City of Magee wanted to acquire the 14.5 acre park adjacent to the old elementary.  There was discussion about “horse trading” and the fact that the school district was willing to give up the park in lieu of the annual payment.  The city balked when the offer came back stating the school district had real expenses associated with the operations of the high school field. 

A delegation of city leaders plans to meet with the school board to see what kind of deal can be struck.  They stated it was not their intention to create issues for the school’s ball team, they were just looking for assistance in the actual expenses associated with the operation of the ball field.  

The City of Magee adopted their annual budget for the upcoming year at their board meeting last Tuesday night.

The general fund budget is increasing to $4,899,924 from $4,818,054 over the previous budget year.  The total budget will go from the current $7,093,036 to $7,087,906.  The stated goal of the mayor was to increase the rainy day fund from almost $1 million to $1.2 million. 

Increases in this year’s budget include a 2 percent raise for all full time employees. This does not include elected officials. 

One budget item is a new Tahoe for the mayor, which he said he does not plan to acquire.  The budget includes $20,000 t for a Parks and Recreation vehicle as well as the same for a maintenance vehicle for which an amount was not listed but plans include the purchase of two new radios for the police department.

The board budgeted $230,000 for paving streets, $5,000 for improvements at the new senior center, $5,000 for sprinklers for the sportsplex and a new fire truck. 

The value of a mill for the city of Magee is $39,563.  The city will need 26 mills to fund the annual budget.