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Greene County supervisors talk Turkey Fork land, new 911 dispatch center in D.C.

By Cory Johnson

GREENE COUNTY, Miss. (WKRG) – Two Greene County supervisors are in Washington, D.C. Friday, April 21, days after a deadline for members of Congress to advance earmark requests.

Supervisors Danny Smith and Wayne Barrow and Economic Development Director Danny Box are in Washington, D.C. after one project in the county made Rep. Mike Ezell (R- Pascagoula)’s short list of earmark requests to the House Appropriations Committee.

Greene County is vying for $750,000 from Congress to add a space to house 911 dispatch in the plans for a new emergency management complex. Monday was the deadline for members of Congress to publish their community project, or earmark, requests to be brought to the committee room in each chamber. Rep. Ezell, in his first year in office, made 15 requests for projects in south Mississippi.

The county received $1.2 million during the 2022 state legislative session to convert the old farmer’s market building, on Hwy 63 across from the state prison, into an office for the Emergency Management Agency with space for training and equipment storage. Supervisors plan to put out a request for bids to construct the building this spring.

The county’s request to Rep. Ezell is for funds to build an adjacent hardened building for a new 911 call center. The current dispatch center is in a 7×12’ room in the sheriff’s office with some of the equipment in a room attached to the outside of the building with a leaky roof.

“On several occasions, the system has suffered component damage due to the lack of a climate-controlled atmosphere. The room in which the answering point sits has no HVAC filtration system to prevent dust build up, hence causing potential damage to the computer and phone,” wrote Greene County EMA Director Trent Robertson in a letter to Ezell.

The county’s initial request to Ezell, the former Jackson County sheriff, was for $1 million. His office is filing a $750,000 request with the Commerce, Justice and Science subcommittee.

Greene County received a $705,000 allocation during the recent state legislative session to completely replace the current dispatch equipment. Earlier this month, 911 calls had to be routed to adjacent counties when the system was offline.

A second request from the county for $750,000 for a feasibility study and site selection evaluation for a George/Greene County Regional Airport was not included on a list of earmark requests moving forward from Ezell’s office.

County supervisors are also hoping for a provision in the 2023 Farm Bill to allow them, with the Pat Harrison Waterway District, to take over the Turkey Fork Recreation Area from the U.S. Forest Service. A letter from Supervisor Wayne Barrow said the county wants to see added and improved amenities to the space the forest service has been slow to develop.

Greene County fared well in the funding process last year, receiving $600,000 to tear down the old Basila factory on Main Street in Leakesville to prepare for redevelopment. The request was submitted by former Rep. Steven Palazzo and both senators, Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith. The building is nearly leveled about four months after demolition began.

None of the county’s proposals for the next fiscal year made either senator’s list of requests. What projects around the country will actually be included in the general appropriations bill to receive funding likely won’t be finalized until December.