County may boost subsidy for agency helping with utility bills|[2/3/06]
Published 12:00 am Friday, February 3, 2006
With residential natural gas prices still a hot topic, the county board may revisit the issue again Monday.
District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon told supervisors during an informal meeting Thursday he will move to amend the county budget to boost the county subsidy for the Warren Washington Issaquena Sharkey Community Action Agency, which has been offering financial aid for energy bills.
In the county budget for 2005-06, WWISCA, which assists low-income residents in one-time energy bill payments, is $7,500. Selmon will ask for an increase to $20,000.
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County administrator John Smith said the local and private legislation for the subsidy expired in 2003.
Two weeks ago, the local coordinator for the program told the board the agency was financially equipped to handle its usual caseload of eligible low-income residents.
Still, Selmon defended the move on philosophical grounds.
“If we can help citizens in this time of crisis, that’s the purpose of government,” Selmon said.
Supervisors also discussed the status of the county’s attempt to purchase the city-owned former Southern Printing building, eyed to house the first of state-allocated touch-screen voting machines and a new headquarters for the E-911 Dispatch Center.
District 5 Supervisor Richard George toured the facility with the city’s building and grounds inspector Johnny Puckett last week, along with District 1 Supervisor David McDonald, E-911 Dispatch director Geoffrey Greetham and Sheriff Martin Pace.
George said certain basic renovations to the building would have to be made to get the building ready for the transition, ones that would add about $25,000 to the verbally agreed-upon price of $225,000.
Among them would be partitions to walls and routine electrical work. George said the city is amenable to having city crews perform the work as a time- and money-saver in the process.
In other business, county administrator John Smith presented a third draft of an organizational chart of county government. In it, the office of emergency management director appears alongside other appointed officers that serve at the pleasure of the board, the administrator, road manager, engineer and board attorney.
District 4 Supervisor Carl Flanders said he would not support Smith’s current draft because he still favors a system that puts the county administrator in charge of departmental personnel decisions whether the heads are elected or not.
The board also heard from county engineer John McKee and Olie Elfer of Jimmy G. Gouras Urban Planning Consultants Inc. on grant matters.
The board decided that a letter would be drafted to the City of Vicksburg requesting the two entities split the cost of a shortfall in state-aid funds to replace the Adams Street bridge. The project is $266,000 short of funding, McKee said, with that project combined with community development block grant funds to repair the Cherry Street bridge.
Elfer asked the board about $142,335 in grant money secured last week from the Delta Regional Authority originally intended to lure a medical records management firm to the spec building at Ceres Research and Industrial Interplex.
The company, PHNS of Dallas, decided several months ago not to set up a satellite location here.
Upon Elfer’s bringing up the subject, board attorney Paul Winfield said he received assurances from the office of U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, who announced the grant, that a “shift-over” of the money was possible if another project could be substituted.
Winfield had consulted with Thompson and other members of the state’s delegation during a five-day lobbying effort earlier in the week, one that was also attended by about a dozen representatives from the city, county and local economic development interest groups.
Elfer then brought up for discussion the project to widen the Yazoo Diversion Canal, a $3.9 million effort geared to improve barge accessibility to the Port of Vicksburg.
The project is planned by the Vicksburg district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the City of Vicksburg and the Warren County Port Commission. It would widen the canal from its junction with the Mississippi River to the entrance to the channel that leads to the E.W. Haining Industrial Center.
Elfer told supervisors that the project is $198,000 short of the local government funding match. The federal government is to cover $3.2 million of the project.
Supervisors agreed that if the grant money can be diverted, the Yazoo project would be the one that is requested.
“This one isn’t about beautification; it’s about jobs and access to that port,” George said.