Terri Ferguson Smith
The first Lauderdale Board of Supervisors meeting of the new year saw the passing of the gavel as a new board president took office.
Supervisors pick a new president each year and this year Hank Florey, District 1 supervisor and board president, passed the gavel to Josh Todd, District 3 supervisor, after a unanimous vote of the board approving Todd.
Todd is serving his first term as supervisor as is Kyle Rutledge, who was unanimously elected vice president.
"My goal is to keep pushing forward," Todd said. "We're going in the right direction so my goal is to keep us on that same track."
Todd acknowledged that he has learned a lot in his first two years as supervisor. "I'm a right-now type of guy; I want the instant gratification. This part of government works a little slower than I would like. I think things should go a little faster," Todd said. "I have had to learn a little patience – even though three kids taught me a lot of patience. I've had to learn to have more. You are constantly learning and evolving as a supervisor."
Rutledge said he is looking forward to serving as vice president.
"I'm trying to get a lot of things done, making sure the roads are taken care of and working on economic development," Rutledge said. "That's one of the things I ran on. We need, as a board to work harder to get jobs here in Meridian, not just the large jobs but even the smaller, 10 to 20-job companies coming in. If you get five of those in, that's the same as landing a huge jobs project."
Rutledge said one thing he has learned in the first two years of his first term as supervisor is that there is something new every day.
"There's always something that pops up. There's a fire to put out. You do the best you can and roll with the punches," Rutledge said. "You never know what the morning will bring, but it's all about serving the constituents — serving them to the best of your capabilities."
The board also approved bids infrastructure work related to the CertainTeed plant that is due to reopen in July. The infrastructure work includes making improvements to the existing rail spur, increasing water service to the property, and installing a sewage pretreatment plant. The bids came in at approximately $1.5 million, which is about $200,000 less than the budgeted amount, officials said.
The Meridian site manufactured ceiling tiles, but CertainTeed shut down operations at the Meridian plant in August, 2009 due to uncertainties in the construction market. They announced in June, 2013 that they would reopen, bringing a total of 110 jobs to the area by 2016.
The company is investing approximately $24 million in refurbishing the plant; an additional $1.7 million was made available through a partnership of Lauderdale County, city of Meridian and the Mississippi Development Authority.
In other action, the board made reappointments to some who serve in county government. Those reappointed with a unanimous vote are:
Joe McCraney, county administrator;
Engineering Plus, as the firm acting as county state aid engineer;
Harris Wilder, county road manager; and
Barry, Thaggard, May and Bailey as the law firm representing the Board of Supervisors.
Tax Assessor James Rainey said his office will again be open extra hours on some weekends for taxpayers who need to make changes to their Homestead Exemption status. Changes can be made through April 1 each week day, from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., at the Tax Assessor's office on the first floor of the Lauderdale County Courthouse.
Additionally, the office will be open three Saturdays during that time. The schedule is:
• Jan. 25, from 8 a.m.-noon
• Feb. 22, from 8 a.m.-noon
• March 29, from 8 a.m.-noon
For more information on Homestead Exemption call (601) 482-9779.
The board on Monday also accepted the letter of resignation from David Sharp, former director of the Lauderdale Emergency Management Agency; and unanimously approved Scott Spears as interim director.