The Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors hit the ground running Monday in its first meeting of the new year, taking action to move several projects forward, while weighing how supply chain and inflation issues might impact county efforts.
In a unanimous vote, the board approved a $477,949 bid from Creel Development, Inc. to repair a bridge on Buntin Gunn Road. The county also received a bid from Joe McGee Construction for $497,971.
Road Manager Rush Mayatt recommended moving forward with the project despite both bids coming in above the $403,955 estimate in 2021.
Supervisor Jonathan Wells said the Buntin Gunn bridge project was a good way for taxpayers to see firsthand the benefit of proactive repairs. By getting the bridge fixed now, he said residents would have the road back open much faster than if the county waited for state inspectors to order the bridge closed.
“I think the public’s gonna see the difference in us being ahead of a project, fixing a bridge before the state comes along in closing it,” he said. “The difference in us having time to get the bridge repaired, getting this work done, compared to the state coming in and closing one.”
Wells said the state doesn’t give the county forewarning before it closes a bridge, so the county has to start the repair project, which can take a year or more, while the bridge stays closed. By being proactive, he said residents will avoid having their bridge closed that long.
The board also approved the purchase of several dump trucks from Tri-State Truck Center Inc. for $169,500 per truck. The board had previously considered bids for the dump trucks but delayed taking action to discuss the cost and the state of the county’s current truck fleet.
Mayatt previously said the bids received for the trucks were all outside the budgeted $165,000 per truck cost, but on Monday he said the road department would use additional funds from selling surplus vehicles to make up the difference.
The new trucks are intended to replace Lauderdale County’s aging fleet of dump trucks, which are beginning to see excessive maintenance costs. Mayatt told the board Monday the trucks were needed but it may be awhile before they would arrive. The suppliers, he said, quoted lead times of anywhere from a few days to 12 months to get the trucks delivered.
Dump trucks are not the only thing impacted by supply issues and inflation. Mayatt said rising costs and long lead times will likely be a common obstacle for the county in 2022.
“We’re going to have to be very mindful of the trucks that we got and try to limp them along,” he said. “It’s not the position we wanted to be in nor that we tried to, but it’s the state of our economy. I think this is the route we need to take.”
Mayatt said another big item that was becoming hard to find was aggregate. The county uses large quantities of the multi-purpose material in paving, covering dirt roads and for a myriad of other projects.
“Aggregate has been really, really difficult to get here lately. I do not see that changing in the next six months for sure,” he said.
With the material becoming hard to find, Mayatt said the county would need to look at it’s policies on how it uses the rock to cut back where it can.
Lamar Hotel and Ulmer Building
Lauderdale County supervisors also voted to declare the Lamar Hotel, which is used as the Lauderdale County Courthouse Annex, and the Ulmer Building as surplus and advertise for proposals for private businesses to develop the properties.
The move comes as part of the county’s plan to relocate many departments to the new county government complex.
Supervisor Josh Todd said the actions were a way to “get the ball rolling,” and residents shouldn’t expect the county to move out anytime soon.
“We are not moving out of this building next month, next two months, not this year,” he said. “Just because you see this doesn’t mean that we’re moving out or going to be renting this place. We’re just doing our due diligence trying to get ahead of the game.”
County Administrator Chris Lafferty said the board's actions were just the beginning of a long process, and any development plan for the properties would likely take several years to progress to the point of work on the buildings themselves.
Construction on the new government building is ongoing with an estimated 18 months to completion.
On Monday the board of supervisors also approved re-employing county department heads, which supervisors are required to annually.
The board approved retaining Lafferty and Mayatt in their current roles, as well as County Engineer Engineering Plus, Fire Coordinator Alan Dover, LEMA Director Odie Barrett, Clayton Cobler as Metro Ambulance Service executive director and Lee Thaggard and his firm, Barry, Thaggard, May, LLP as Board Attorneys.
Supervisors also appointed officers for the board and its alternate body, the Board of Trustees for Lauderdale County Economic Development District.
District 1 Supervisor Jonathan Wells was appointed president of both the board of supervisors and economic development board of trustees, District 3 Supervisor Josh Todd was appointed vice president of both boards, and Chancery Clerk Carolyn Mooney was appointed to serve as secretary of the Lauderdale County Economic Development District board.
In other business, the board voted to cancel its Jan. 13 work session as it conflicted with the Mississippi Association of Supervisors Mid-Winter Conference. The board will next meet Monday, Jan. 17.