Supervisors focusing on Region 11's money woes

by Sean Dunlap

The financial status of Southwest Mississippi Mental Health Complex Region 11 — which services Franklin and eight other surrounding counties — was once again a topic of discussion at the Monday, May 16 meeting of the Franklin County Board of Supervisors.

Ten weeks ago, State Coordinator for Mental Health Accessibility Bill Rosamond told supervisors that mental health services provided by Region 11 were deemed inadequate.

He also noted the operation was in dire financial straits, including being in arrears to the Public Employees Retirement System of Mississippi.

Rosamond visited each county located in Region 11 with the same report, also stating the boards of supervisors in the impacted area needed to give him a plan of how they intended to provide adequate mental health services within 30 days.

Since that time, leaders of the nine counties represented in the region have met to discuss a plan of action and learn more about why the region is in a financial hardship.

Franklin County Chancery Clerk Jill Jordan Gilbert told supervisors during this week’s meeting that Region 11’s county leaders met on Tuesday, May 10 and decided it would be wise to conduct an independent audit of the institution.

“They’re wanting to hire Chuck Lambert to go in and audit those books and split it up between the counties by population,” Gilbert said.

“(Lambert) used to work for the audit department, he was hospital comptroller at McComb and he was county administrator and supervisor in Pike County. He’s really, really good with numbers.”

District 2 Supervisor Henry “Eddie” Stebbins cited the issues with Region 11 as an eye-opening experience, and said it would be wise to have those he and fellow board members appoint to various panels report back to them at least quarterly so they know what is going on.

The panel voted to hire Lambert to conduct an independent financial audit.

In other action, the Franklin County Board of Supervisors:

• Opened bids for a Natural Resources Conservation Service-sponsored watershed project which will take place at the McCall Creek bridge.

Midway Construction submitted a low bid of $53,500 and was awarded the project.

Other bids received for the work were from Mims Inc., for $70,050; Hope Enterprises for $59,810; Camo Construction Inc., for $64,430; and Dozer Inc. for $67,105.

• Bids were also opened for several pieces of county surplus equipment, including a 1993 Ford Bronco, a 2009 Ford Crown Victoria, a 2008 Ford Expedition, a Caterpillar 12G motor grader and a 2000 Ford F-250 pickup truck.

Ryan Williamson submitted the highest offer out of 17 bidders for the Ford Bronco — $5,127, which was accepted.

The Crown Victoria was awarded to Ben Vice, who submitted a high bid of $550.

The F-250 was awarded to Charles Chapman, who had the highest bid totaling $611, and the Expedition was sold to James Conley, whose high bid was $3,253.17.

Eddie Beach gave the highest bid — $15,525 — for the motor grader, which was also approved.

• Heard an update from county engineer Mike McKenzie on the box culvert being placed on Burt Jordan Road.

• Approved payment of claims to WGK Inc., for engineering work done on several county-sanctioned projects, including $23,426.97 for the Berrytown slide State Aid Project (SAP)-19(70), which will be reimbursed by the Office of State Aid Road Construction; $775 for hydraulic calculations and recommending pipe sizes for culvert replacements on Allen Road; $5,208.75 for professional services rendered on a potential economic development opportunity; $4,927.50 for services provided on the McCall Creek Bridge NRCS project; and $15,269.02 for services rendered on SAP-19(71) on Burt Jordan Road, which will also be reimbursed by State Aid Roads.

• Approved payment in the amount of $175 for a $50,000 bond on new deputy sheriff Blake Matthews.

• Approved payment of $3,000 to the State Medical Examiner for three autopsies performed — two from 2017 and one from 2021.

• Gave approval to pay The Franklin Advocate $412.50 for publication of a legal notice to contractors for SAP-19(73), which is a project on Gloster Road.

• Approved payments of $830 and $575 to Harris-Delta Computer Services for computer software maintenance for one year.

The software is used for justice court, marriage licenses, civil court, criminal court case accounting, fee capping, minute book indexing, paper link and imaging, and for the chancery court minute book.

• Approved travel for coroner Billy Gill and deputy coroner Kelly Peeples Hunt to attend the 2022 Summer Coroner’s Conference in Biloxi for $350 per person plus rooms and meals for the event.

Travel was also approved for Sheriff’s Deputy Dewayne Whetstone to attend an investigator school, with no entrance fee and a cost of $60 per night.

• Spread on the minutes a certificate of training for Election Commissioner Marilyn Ezell.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Supervisors will be held at 9 a.m., Monday, June 6 at the Franklin County Courthouse in Meadville.