Local emergency management officials gave Forrest County supervisors a grim update on the county stockpile of personal protective equipment during a special-called supervisors meeting on March 19.
“Personal protective equipment is in short supply, and the county has few reserve resources available,” said Glenn Moore, executive director of the Forrest County Emergency Management District.
Moore said that, during times of crisis, the federal government – through the Federal Emergency Management Agency – usually provides equipment to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, which then funnels the supplies to the 82 counties in the state.
However, due to unprecedented demand, “the state doesn’t have enough supplies,” he said.
Moore said his office is buying what it can in masks, hand sanitizer and medical gowns, but he noted that he has limited financial resources to do so. He said the responsibility for buying equipment may soon fall to the county and to the cities of Hattiesburg and Petal.
“A mask, which normally costs about 90 cents, is retailing for about $8 to $11 now … it’s criminal price gouging,” he said.
Moore added that FEMA is tapping into the national strategic stockpile of supplies, but only 1 percent of that stockpile is expected to come to Mississippi.
“There are about 1,000 entries into MEMA for those supplies … and Forrest County accounts for about 15 percent of those entries,” he noted.
In other board business, supervisors approved a plan to add wireless internet to 14 county-owned community centers. The wireless points were requested by schools and will be furnished by AT&T within 7-10 days at a cost of nearly $8,000 a month.
The service is on a monthly contract, which will allow the board to cancel it when schools resume in-person meetings.
The internet will be available in the parking lot of these facilities, and David Hogan, board president, said residents will be asked to remain in their vehicles while using the internet.
Sites slated to have wireless are:
• Barrontown/Macedonia Community Center, 610 Herrington Road in Petal.
• Brooklyn Community Center, 2170 Carnes Road in Brooklyn.
• Carnes Old Helena Community Center, 1193 Carnes Road in Wiggins.
• Danny Hinton Community Center, 225 Tatum Road in Hattiesburg.
• Dantzler Community Center, 27 Turkey Pine Drive in Hattiesburg.
• Dixie Community Center, 760 Elks Lake Road in Hattiesburg.
• Glendale Community Center, 451 Monroe Road in Hattiesburg.
• Leeville Community Center, 516 Lynn Ray Road in Petal.
• McLaurin Community Center, 15 McLaurin Road in Hattiesburg.
• North Forrest Community Center, 673 Eatonville Road in Hattiesburg.
• Rawls Springs Community Center, 50 Rawls Road in Hattiesburg.
• Sheeplo Community Center, 160 McGilvary Road in Petal.
• Sunrise Community Center, 338 Sunrise Road in Petal.
• Will Denton Community Center, 902 Old Highway 49 South in Brooklyn.
During the meeting, the board also expressed its collective frustration with MEMA for being slow to return $3.5 million in county taxpayer funds used to build storm shelters in the county. MEMA functions as a pass-through agency for the money, according to Hogan, and the money comes from federal grants.
Supervisors entered executive session to discuss the matter with MEMA officials by phone and asked them to expedite the payment if possible.