Supervisors begin talks on buying land for jail

Published 6:56 pm Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Warren County Board of Supervisors is in the midst of discussing the cost of purchasing a tract of land on U.S. 80 for the proposed county jail site.

County attorney Blake Teller informed the supervisors during their work session this week initial negotiations for the property are underway with attorneys of the landowner.

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In April, the supervisors hired appraiser Bobby Bottin to assess the value of the 47-acre site that was once the old Pinewoods Hotel. The appraisal has been completed, as well as the required legislative interlocal agreement with city of Vicksburg officials that is necessary for the facility to be located outside the city limits.

The 47-acre site, which has not been a popular choice with some residents in the area, was targeted as a potential jail location once it became clear the first choice location at the Ceres Industrial Complex was not favorable to local and state economic development and city officials.

Although the supervisors have not voted on purchasing the U.S. 80 property, Board President Richard George has made it clear of their intent in a previous work session. “The bottom line is, when you’re having a piece of property appraised, you’re not looking for a place to have a picnic,” George said.

Supervisors are expected to make a draw on the $1.2 million loan from RiverHills Bank to secure funding for the jail site before a May 31 deadline.

In another matter, the supervisors are expected to join in a lawsuit against distributors of opiods.

In February, Will Allen, a Brookhaven lawyer who represents the Mississippi Supervisors Association, told the supervisors this is an opportunity to recoup costs associated with the impact of the opioid epidemic.

“We’ve got an epidemic and what we’re trying to do is slow down the epidemic and help county’s recover from the expenses they incur,” Allen said.

Many of the expenses deal with law enforcement, mental health and community hospitals.

The U.S. Centers of Diseases Control and Prevention says 42,000 people died of overdoses in 2016 from opioids, a class of drug that includes powerful prescription painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin; illegal heroin; and fentanyl, a strong synthetic drug sold both through prescription and on the street.

Allen said 85 percent of all the opioids in the United States go through three distributors – McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen Corporation – and are to blame for flooding the market with opioids.

“And that’s the three defendants we are suing,” Allen said. “The bottom line is they haven’t done their job and we know that and the federal government knows that,” Allen said.

More than 250 cases have been filed in federal court and have been consolidated under Judge Dan Polster, who is based in Cleveland, Ohio.

Supervisors are expected to choose among three law firms who have filed cases in the matter.

“They are offering services at no cost to the county,” Teller told the board. “What the contract will be is a 25 percent contingency arrangement. The county won’t pay anything, but it will be from any recovery, which will probably be in national litigation. At some point they will award cities, counties and states monies based on whatever proof they can present as far as potential losses.”

Teller said those out of pocket fees will not exceed 50 percent of any recovery.