County seeks alternatives to spillway warning systems


The current system for warning drivers who attempt to cross six rain-swollen Lamar County spillways during major weather events is unsafe, inefficient and wasting law enforcement personnel, county officials told the Board of Supervisors on Monday.

So supervisors approved building gates on both sides of the spillways that can be locked to prevent drivers from crossing during dangerous rainstorms or ice.

Lauderdale County Road Manager Tommy Jones presented the proposal to the Board of Supervisors at its Monday meeting at the William J. “Pete” Gamble III Chancery Courthouse in Purvis.

“We’ve been having a continual issue with the water and the ice crossing the spillways,” he said. “We don’t get a shower anymore; we get a two-inch rain. Anytime you get a two-inch rain in 45 minutes, it’s going roll over the spillways. What happens up there (at Canebrake and Lake Serene), you’ve got one lake feeding another lake and it all winds up crossing one spillway to get to the other.”

Jones said drivers a crossing spillways during dangerous times.

“We understand that water is always running across,” he said. “We understand that water is always running across; if it’s a couple of inches deep, it’s not a problem. However, once you get water that’s six, eight inches or deeper, we don’t need traffic in there.

What happens now is a lot of times people are driving over spillways at night. The Sheriff’s Department will find it, they’ll call dispatch, they’ll call us, we’ve got to call someone to take out barricades and put them up. So during that whole time, you’ve got a sheriff’s deputy just sitting there trying to keep people from going through.”

Sheriff Danny Rigel said problems still exist after the barricades are set up.

“The problem with the barricades is you see people go around them,” he said. “Someone in a four-wheel drive truck will go around the barricade, but then another person in a small car will go in behind him, thinking it’s open. We are going to have somebody drown.”

After 76 calls for spillways in 2016, Rigel said manpower is also an issue.

“My deputies are out there 24/7,” he said. “Another problem we’re having is when we do have a flood event, ice or whatever, our deputies are having to stand by until the road department can get there with the barricades. It’s taking up valuable time. Like the ice event, we were pulling people out of ditches left and right and we don’t manpower to sit on both sides of a spillway.”

Jones said he didn’t realize the sheriff was being called so often because of the spillways.

“A lot of times, he would get called out and in some situations the water will go down relatively quickly,” he said. “Whenever we have water that’s eight or 10 inches deep and they’re trying to cross to cross it and they’re moving barricades to go through, sooner or later somebody is going to drown out there because they’re not paying attention to the signs.”

Jones said installing gates that have combination locks will allow the spillways to be closed off quickly.

“Basically, as we put these gates up, we’ll have the combination, the sheriff will have the combination and the security at Canebrake and Lake Serene will have the combination,” he said. “If they see that the water is going up, all they have to do is unlock that combination lock, pull the gate to and lock it closed whenever there’s a flood event going one. It’s just strictly to prevent anyone from getting hurt.”

Drivers don’t always see the danger in rising water, Jones said.

“‘Well, we cross it all the time’ is what their mindset is,” he said. “When Hurricane Isaac came through, I sat at the one at West Lake Drive. Water was at two feet deep; logs were flowing over the spillway. We sat there with lights on to prevent anyone from coming through. If you had been in that deep water, you are going down the spillway and somebody is trying to find you at that point in time. We want to prevent that.

If you’re driving and you get caught in something like that, you’re just along for the ride. There’s nothing you can do.”

The six spillways that cross county-maintained roads within Lamar County are East Lakeside Drive, Buccaneer Drive, Balboa Drive, West Lakeside Drive, Beaver Road and West Canebrake Boulevard.

In other action Monday, the supervisors:

•          Heard from John Monroe, Lamar County Conservation District, and South Mississippi Planning and Development District representatives about the Comprehensive Plan/Land Use Map.

•          Approved the Jan. 18 and 25 Board Minutes.

•          Resigned: Frank Ketchens, South Bridge Heavy Equipment effective Jan. 18.

•          New Hire: Jacob Ham, North Bridge Heavy Equipment effective Jan. 29 at $13.50 per hour.

•          New Hire: James Entrekin, North Bridge Inmate Driver effective Jan. 29 at $13 per hour.

•          Resigned: Andrelique Smith, Circuit Court Public Defender Paralegal effective Jan. 10, 2018.

•          Approved the Culvert Report, the Form 2 Report and the Four-Year Road Plan as submitted.

•          Ordered publication of proceedings.

•          Approved the January End of the Month Docket, paying the February Claims Docket as submitted and the February monthly civil and criminal claims for constables as submitted.

•          Received and entered clerk’s report of receipts and expenditures from the preceding calendar month.

•          Received and entered sheriff’s report of expenditures incurred during the preceding calendar month.

•          Received and entered tax assessor/collector’s report of expenditures incurred during the preceding calendar month.

•          Approved paying lawful expenses of Dispatchers Amanda Bennett, Rashida Scott, and Kasey Anderson to attend the Basic Dispatch Recertification Course Feb. 19-20 in Moss Point.

•          Approved advertising county resources in the amount of $1,500 for sponsorship of the seventh annual FCA Good Friday Breakfast of Champions (To be paid from Funds 012 & 014 District 2 & 4 Parks & Recreation).

•          Approved advertising for RFPs for New TPO Recover for the roof of the Lumberton Public Library.

•          Approved paying the lawful expenses for any member of the Board of Supervisors to attend the ADP Legislative Dinner in Jackson Feb. 28.

•          Approved advertising county resources in the amount of $3,000 with the Sumrall Dugout Club, to be paid from Fund 015, District 5 Parks & Recreation.

•          Approved for Board President to sign the engagement letter with Butler Snow for the FY2017 Continuing Disclosure in the amount of $3,000.

•          New Hire: Elizabeth McLaughlin, File Clerk effective Jan. 18 at $13.30 per hour.

•          Approved reimbursing City of Madison Police Department for Officer Michael Shannon’s training at Southern Regional Public Safety Institute at Camp Shelby. (Reimbursement formula under rule 101.3 in the Mississippi Standards & Training Policy and Procedure Manual).

•          Approved paying lawful travel expenses for George Stevens to attend NFPA 3000

Committee meeting as committee member “Standard for Preparedness and Response to Active Shooter and/or Hostile Events” March 19-22 in Braintree, Massachusetts. The NVFC will reimburse all travel expenses.

•          Approved paying lawful travel expenses for George Stevens to attend the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) Spring Meeting, April 19-21 2018 in Alexander, Va.

•          Approved paying lawful travel expenses for Billy Courtney and Andrew Pylant to attend the Mississippi EMT Association Conference, April 20-22 in Tunica.

•          Approved paying lawful travel expenses for Jarred Atkins to attend Firefighter Intervention Rescue Techniques at the MS Fire Academy, April 23-26 2018 in Pearl.

•          Approved paying lawful travel expenses for Jarred Atkins and Andrew Pylant to attend Fire Department Safety Officer 1521 class at the MS Fire Academy in Pearl March 12-15.

•          Approved paying lawful travel expenses for Mike Watts to attend the Fire Investigator Class at the MS Fire Academy in Pearl March12-15.

•          New Hire: William Courtney Jr. Pine Ridge Driver/Operator/Paramedic effective Jan. 29 at $15 per hour.

•          Received and entered Northeast Lamar Fire Protection District 2017 Year-End Financial Statement.

•          Approved for Board President Joe Bounds to sign amended agreement with Tri-Community Fire Protection District for lease of fire truck.

•          Approved paying Pine Ridge VFD $1,000 from fund 118, Pine Ridge Fire District, to sponsor a Recruitment & Retention Seminar.

•          Approved for George Stevens, Fire Coordinator, to sign the DOD/FFP Cooperative Equipment Agreement with the Mississippi Forestry Commission.

•          Approved the asset deletion list as submitted and dispose of as indicated on the inventory deletion form.

•          Approved the asset transfer list as submitted.

•          Approved changes in Assessments and Homestead as submitted by the Tax Collector/Assessor.

•          Approved Tax Sale Cancellations as submitted by the Tax Collector/Assessor.

•          Approved surrendering old vehicle tags as submitted by the Tax Collector/Assessor.

•          Approved setting the speed limit at 20 mph for Westbrook Subdivision in District 5 per the recommendation of the Road Manager.

•          Approved setting the speed limit at 20 mph for Bellewood Subdivision in District 4 per the recommendation of the Road Manager.

•          Approved setting the speed limit at 35mph for Knight Road in District 4 per the recommendation of the Road Manager.

•          Approved Election Commission to use more than the prescribed nine poll workers if they are needed in the upcoming elections. (House Bill 497)

•          Approved applying for a $162,000 Fire Prevention and Safety Grant to fund a three-year Fire Safety Educator position. Grant would provide 90 percent of cost of salary, benefits, office supplies and phone and Internet costs for three years. The estimated total match would be $18,000 to be paid from Fund 121.

•          Approved Petition to Designate Family Cemetery for Anderson Family Cemetery, located in Section 7, Township 2 North, Range 15 west, located in Supervisor District 3.

•          Approved the revised Ordinance for Implementation and Maintenance of Addressing and Road Signage.

•          Approved a finding that the lowest bid submitted by Empire Truck Sales for a fully automated side arm garbage truck did not meet specifications. Bid was submitted for an aluminum cab truck when a steel cab truck was specified. Also, radiator did not meet specification as well as three other items noted on the bid sheet.

•          Approved the best bid from Sansom Equipment Company to purchase one new fully automated side-arm garbage truck in the amount of $222,118.

The next board meeting will be at 9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 22.