County settles $1.3 million lawsuitBy BETH BUNCH,
On Tuesday, the Forrest County Board of Supervisors announced they have reached an agreement with the Pat Harrison Waterway District, settling for $1.3 million.
In 2013, the board voted to leave the district.
According to Forrest County Supervisors President David Hogan, the county had some financial issues at that time and were giving the waterway district approximately $500,000 a year.
“We didn’t have a park inside the county, so we thought that would be a good way to save money and it has been,” he said.
The waterway district subsequently sued Forrest County, as they had done Lamar County for pulling out of the district. Jasper County, one of the 15 contracted counties, also withdrew from the group. Lamar County paid $385,000, while Jasper County’s contribution was less than $150,000.
In March 2016, the Mississippi Supreme Court denied the waterway district’s motion for their case against Lamar County to be reheard.
Forrest County’s settlement is so large mainly because of the waterway district building which sits on Hwy. 49 in front of Forrest General Hospital.
“It was approximately $500K, which is what we felt like we would owe because that was the year we got out and then the evaluation of the building,” said Hogan. “I’m sure once we get possession of the building we’ll be donating it to Forrest General Hospital, which is owned by the citizens of Forrest County.”
Hogan noted that FGH had been good to the county, working with them on things such as inmate medical costs.
“They are a great partner, as well as the largest employer in the county, so we want to help them every way we can,” he said.
In addition to regaining the building the county will also pay the district $675,000. According to Hogan, the timeframe included PHWWD finding another facility, which they have done, and are currently remodeling.
“We were going to wait until they moved out of their building and pay them, but they asked for some help in the renovation costs and the board was obliged to help them,” Hogan said. “We are going to give them 50 percent of the money now and the other 50 percent when they vacate the building.”
Hogan was quick to say the county has no hard feelings with the Pat Harrison Waterway District.
“It was strictly a business decision in an attempt by this board to save the taxpayers some money and we believe we made the right decision,” he said. “We’re glad we could settle with them amicably on both sides and wish them all the best. There may come a day when we see fit to join back in with them.