Lauderdale County board hears complaint on bond spending

Submitted photo

Judge M. Robbie Robinson

A concerned resident asked the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors Monday morning to rescind an earlier vote releasing $5 million of the $14 million bond issue and allow the bond money to do what was intended to and repair the courthouse.

The bond issue was passed by voters in 2013.

Tommy Williams, who represents Lauderdale County Citizens for Responsible Government, said the board as a whole was elected to tend to the needs of the county.

"Discussing the matter of responsible governance, your districts elected you to do the same," Williams said.

"They elected you to take care of the entire county and there is an unsafe building across the street," Williams said referring to the Lauderdale County Courthouse. "A 2008 Board commissioned an architect to evaluate the courthouse needs. The released study was put on the backburner. I recommend you reverse your motion releasing $5 million for roads."

When supervisors approved the $14 million bond issue in 2013, $3.8 was proposed for a 32,000 square-foot sports complex at Highland Park that would house a four-court gymnasium with bleachers. Approximately $3.5 million of the bond was to go to the county-owned fields of the West Lauderdale Youth Association and $2.5 million to the county-owned Clarkdale Community Recreation Association Park construction. The remaining $4.2 million was meant to fund a partial renovation of the courthouse.

Supervisors took no action on Williams' request, but Board President Joe Norwood addressed Williams' concerns at the end of the meeting.

"The Board's decision was to use the $5 million for its intended purpose," Norwood said. "The language of the bond said we could do things other than roads, which included road construction, acquisition of property and other things.

"Lauderdale County has some of the finest roads in the state. He said we had unsafe buildings. I don't know if we have unsafe buildings, but I know we need renovation of some buildings. To say we have unsafe buildings is stretching it."

Supervisors still have $7.8 million that is frozen from the 2013 bond. 

The Lauderdale County Courthouse was built in 1905 and the third floor was added during the 1930s as a Works Progress Administration project. A number of recent grand juries have said the courthouse is in poor shape.

Justice appointed

Supervisors, also, recognized the retirement of Justice Court Judge M. Robbie Robinson after 26 years on the job. District 2 Supervisor Wayman Newell nominated Ondray M. Harris Sr., as Robinson's replacement. Chris McFarland was nominated to replace Harris as constable.

All appointments are pending a special election that will be set by the Lauderdale County Election Commission.

Robinson was given a standing ovation by supervisors and others in attendance. He was elected to seven terms.

"I've been there since 1991," Robinson said. "I've served 26 years as a judge and over 20 years with the U.S. Air Force. Both have been good careers. Ondray Harris was my bailiff for over 25 years and he will do a good job."

"I don't think you'll ever be forgotten," Newell told Robinson. "Thank you for your service."

Harris served 26 years as a constable in District 2.

"Mr. Robinson's will be a tough position to fill," Harris said.

Other business

Supervisors approved:

• Road Manager Greer Goldman's request to pay G.R. Joyner $20,033 for work on the Satellite A building.

• County Administrator Chris Lafferty's request to increase the animal shelter's adoption fee from $15 to $20. The increase will help cover the cost of vaccinations.

• Various members of Lafferty's staff to attend seminars in Jackson and Philadelphia.

• Hhiring of Jennifer Chesney as Drug Court Case Manager at a starting salary of $30,000.

• Endorsement letter assisting the East Central Planning Development District in applying for a Brownfield waste grant.

• Acceptance of a bid from Puckett Machinery and approved lease purchase through Caterpillar Finance for four mini-excavations for 60 months at 2.1 percent interest and two skid loaders for 36 months at 1.84 percent interest. Supervisors also approved purchase of a mulcher for $31,200 from Puckett Machinery.

• Acceptance of the low quote of $18,304 from Kemp Electrical Service Inc. for new LED lighting at MIDD-Meridian, a work activity center for adults. 

  

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