Senior citizens voice concerns over food box supplements

By JENNIFER BOZEMAN PUBLISHER,

A large group of senior citizens attended the Board of Supervisors meeting Monday with concerns over some proposed changes to the Multi-County Community Service Agency food box distribution. Some voiced complaints over being the only county paying a $1 fee for the box of supplemental food and were also told they possibly could not pick up the boxes behind the courthouse anymore due to hindering traffic.

“Why can’t you see after your senior citizens? We are tax payers,” stated Dorothy Stovall, spokesperson for the group to the Supervisors. “I think ya’ll need to keep looking after us. So I want to know why you all cannot do right by the seniors of Clarke County?”

Board President Darrick Marshall then handed out copies of letters addressed to Rep. William Shirley in 2017 urging support of the agreement between Multi-County and the supervisors.

“The supervisors requested in 2017 to keep this going and we did not get that approved,” said Marshall. “It did not come out of committe, which Mr. Shirley is on that committee. If it don’t come out of committee, it don’t happen. Until he approves it or someone in District 84 approves it, we can’t get it done.”

In an interview with Rep. Shirley Tuesday, he stated that he was not on the local and private committee where the bill died in 2017. Since the bill died, it was never brought to the House floor where Rep. Shirley could vote on the matter.

The Clarke County Tribune printed the following in March 2017 when this began:

The Clarke County Board of Supervisors drafted a resolution in March 2017 requesting the legislature to allow them to continue contributing to the agency as they have for many years. In the past, the board has budgeted annually at least $5,000 to the agency, which services Clarke, Lauderdale, Newton, Kemper, Scott and Wayne.  Multi – County helps low income, elderly and disabled citizens with a wide range of services including meals, and weatherization programs for energy efficiency, such as providing air conditioning units to qualified applicants.

A bill was authored by Senator Videt Carmichael, who represents Clarke County, requesting the Senate’s approval which passed the Senate (49/0). The bill then stalled in the House and did not make it to the floor for a vote.

The legality of contributing to the nonprofit organization came after Neshoba County Board of Supervisors sought out an opinion in 2015 from the Attorney General’s office about a county’s authority to use equipment and personnel for the nonprofit organization without statutory authorization.

The Attorney General’s opinion was that a county cannot use county employees or equipment to assist a nonprofit corporation without authorization, which is why the local boards recently requested the authority from the legislators. A 2/3 vote of the legislature would have been necessary to correct the issue so that counties can continue contributing to the agency.

Because of the opinion by the AG’s office, and the County Board having to follow the letter of the law, they notified the staff member in 2017 that they can no longer allow a county vehicle to pick up the 97 food boxes that are to be distributed to local, elderly residents.

Ronald Collier, Executive Director of Multi-County, was present at Monday’s meeting to help clear issues up.

“Multi-County Community Services serves nine counties in East Mississippi. We spend over $212,000 in Clarke County alone; that’s $5900 a month in food box supplements,” said Collier.

“Clarke County was picking the boxes up and delivering them. Mr. Shirley began to question years earlier if this was legal, not only in Clarke County, but all counties we serve.  Our Representative, Charles Young, asked us to draft a letter to the state house and it came before committee. All came out of the house except Clarke and Neshoba counties.

The purpose of the letter to was determine if it was legal for every county to assist Multi County in serving our agency to help the constituents. All counties were deemed legal except Clarke and Neshoba which did not get out of committee. For the last two years there’s been a problem connecting these services to the community.”

As far as the $1 delivery fee, Mr. Collier explained that he just found out about someone charging the fee and it has been stopped.

“At this point, it won’t happen again,” stated Collier. “We don’t charge for this service. We will work to figure out how to get these boxes delivered so it won’t cost you.”

The food boxes will be increased from 97 boxes to 107 a month. The supervisors also stated the boxes will continue to be picked up behind the courthouse.

Other items on Monday’s agenda included the county’s employee insurance. In renewing the contract with Mike Williams, he stated the cost of the insurance is increasing by 3% but benefits would stay the same.

Scott Evans presented to the board a request for a third party business that performs collections for Justice Court to use the county internet system. Their request was denied due to the potential of spam and viruses.

Sheriff Todd Kemp requested to look into changing the phone system companies at the jail. In prior years, the sheriff’s dept. has made commission off the system which helps fund the jail system. Now they hardly do.

In other business, it was approved:

• to advertise for a portion of County Road 616 be closed, approx. 1/10 of a mile.

• to advertise in the Clarke County Magazine

• to accept a 6x12 trailor donation to Emergency Management

• to pay invoices to T.L. Wallace constuction for bridge work on County Road 630

• to accept the lowest bid on building a new Harmony 1 voting precinct near the horse riding arena at Hw. 145 South and 18 West. The lowest bid was from Jones Construction Company of Laurel at $25,950, as opposed to Master Wood Work’s quote of $59,500. The supervisors stated they hoped to have the building finished by the November general election.

• to accept the lowest bid from lawyers requesting to represent minor Justice Court Cases. The lowest bid was Atty. Josh Traxler at $700 a month, compared to Atty. Ginny Kramer’s $1000.

Road Supervisor Brian Dace voiced his concerns with someone tampering with paperwork in his office while he was not in. The board voted to go into executive session for a personnel matter. No action was taken.

Board of Supervisors meetings are open to the public and are held every first and third Mondays of each month at 9 a.m.