County heads back to Petal for cleanup

Following the Jan. 21 tornado, which affected many parts of both Hattiesburg and Petal, the Forrest County Road Department did its part throughout the county to help pick up storm debris, including the City of Petal. But after a couple of weeks, Petal sent word they didn’t require any more assistance.

During Monday’s meeting of the Forrest County Board of Supervisors the board gave the nod for President David Hogan to execute an invoice from the road department to Petal in the amount of $46,269.26, for the pick up and disposal of that storm debris.

But before the end of the meeting, Board Attorney David Miller received a request from Petal Mayor Hal Marx requesting assistance in debris pickup, which proved perplexing for board members.

District 3 Supervisor Burkett Ross made the motion for county workers to return to the Friendly City to provide assistance.

Marx explains that immediately after the storm, the City of Petal requested help from Forrest County for debris cleanup until officials were able to hire a contractor. That contractor is finishing up with the major debris clean-up and will be released from the contract. 0

"We have requested that Forrest County provide us assistance in completing the clean-up process, which will consist of clearing some of the ditches in affected areas and dressing up the rights of way along streets hit by the tornado," said Marx. "City of Petal crews will also be doing this work. We appreciate the county's assistance in order to speed up the process."

So far, more than 130,000 cubic yards of debris have been removed in Petal.

"We are asking that people get as much remaining debris as possible to the street by Monday morning, when our contractor will begin the final pass through the impacted neighborhoods," Marx said.

Once the contractor completes that pass, they will be released from their contract. Then, Marx said the county will aid Petal in completing the debris removal process during the next several weeks.

During the meeting bids were also opened on two road projects – the construction of 0.084 miles of bridge replacement on Broad Street, which is a federal project, and the other for 2.007 miles of grade, drain, base and pave on Luther Carter Road, a state project.

The Broad Street bridge was “posted” last week by Federal Highway Administration officials along with 99 other bridges throughout the state. The “posting” designation means the bridge is unable to support the weight it was designed to hold initially or is unsafe to travel over. The bridge, located in the Hattiesburg High School area, was closed to all through traffic.

The bid for both projects was awarded to low bidder Fairley Construction, upon the recommendation of the State Aid and Forrest County engineers.

On the Broad Street project, which carried an engineering estimate of $523,027, only two bids were received. Fairley submitted a bid of $679,324.29, while Dozer LLC of Natchez submitted a bid of $711.109.79.

The Luther Carter project, estimated to cost $894,300, brought in four bids with Fairley once again coming in as low bidder at $814,315.79. Other bidders were Walters Construction, $909,483.61; Bush Construction, $848,452.16 and Dunn Roadbuilders, $936,928.81.

The board also authorized the capital outlay of 15 Dell desktop computers for the Tax Collector’s Office, in an amount not to exceed $1,500 each or a total of $22,500.

According to Forrest County Tax Collector Delbert Dearman, the computers are necessary in order to comply with a new Mississippi Automated Registration Vehicle Information Network (MARVIN) system for vehicle registration.

The new internet-based system will replace the old PC-based systems, which has been used for about 28 years.

The new system will automatically compute charges for clerks, which has been done by hand. Dearman is confident it will make the job much easier for county employees.

The money to pay for the system comes from a 50-cent charge per car tag. Dearman noted that the county took in approximately $30,475 in revenue last year just from motor vehicles and approximately $600,000 since implemented.

With three weeks left in the legislative session, Rep. Larry Byrd was on hand to update the board on where things stood, informing them that their local/private bill should be signed by the governor during the week.

He also noted the closing of the 100 bridges in the state. He said while they had tried, they could not work on a mechanism to get more money for such projects, mentioning recent budget cuts by the governor.

“Things are stagnant,” he said. “The economic outlook is not real optimistic.”

Board President David Hogan noted the reduction in State Aid money, as well as the Firetruck Acquisition funds. “It’s disappointing at a local level,” he said. “We’re seeing revenue cut, but expenses are not cut. Those across-the-board cuts are being passed down to the local level and it’s disheartening, leaving us with not a lot of options.”

District 4 Supervisor Rod Woullard noted that everyone else had seen pay raises, “but we haven’t been considered for a pay raise,” noting that it had been 13 or 14 years since the last increase in pay.

Supervisors are preparing for the April 22 Hazardous Waste pickup day at the Bobby Chain Airport. Last year’s throw-away day was a huge success and board members urge residents to start collecting items to be disposed of in a proper manner.