Monroe Journal

Shelters among supervisors' items regarding storms

By Ray Van Dusen

ABERDEEN – During its April 6 meeting, the board of supervisors discussed where Monroe County applicants stand in a 2022 pilot program for individual storm shelters. The county was one of eight approved for the program late last year.

District 3 Supervisor Rubel West complemented Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s office for pushing for status updates.

“As of April 5, the state awaits FEMA’s decision in approving the safe room applications,” he said in reading a press release from the senator’s office. “It goes on to say all safe rooms currently applied for must be completed before they launch their next round. They’ve kept telling us they’re going to open up a whole new pot of money to let people apply again. The next round’s not coming until they finish the first round.”

District 4 Supervisor Fulton Ware said people need to be patient, noting he receives calls daily from people asking about storm shelters.

“This time of year is a tough time. These people have been calling us wanting to know why it’s taking so long,” said board president Hosea Bogan.

Ware also stressed the importance for those impacted by the tornado to apply for assistance as soon as possible. FEMA and the Small Business Administration have a presence at the disaster recovery center at the Monroe County Government Complex, located at 1619 Hwy. 25 in Amory, to assist victims.

In other storm-related matters, county officials approved action to move forward with emergency items regarding the Monroe County Government Complex, which sustained damage from the tornado.

County administrator Bob Prisock was awaiting an additional quote for roof repairs and said a mobile chiller is needed because of damage to the HVAC system. He said delivery of a replacement chiller is December.

“You’re going to have to get some type of forced air in there or you’re going to lose the whole building,” West said of mold issues.

While it won’t apply to March 24 tornado response, the board approved to put on its minutes that the county has an option to pay salaried employees hourly rates in any future federally declared disaster. The pay will be reimbursed through federal funds.

“If we have an option to do this on a case-by-case basis, the next event, which could be this month, we could put people putting in 18 to 20 hours a day on an hourly program based on their annual salary right now,” West said. “It won’t help us now but I think 10 years from now, we can go back and look at this.”

Supervisors took evaluation bids under advisement for tornado debris removal and disposal services and also debris monitoring. President Joe Biden authorized a 100% federal cost-share March 31 for debris removal and emergency protective measures.

Economic development matters

Monroe County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dennis Jarvis introduced himself to supervisors before being able to weigh in on a matter regarding an existing industry. He was the top pick of 22 applicants from throughout the nation interested in the position.

“I know a lot of things are at an upheaval right now but I think we’ve got a good team, and the sense of community is above what I’m used to. I know we’ll all overcome this and be stronger on the back side in a year or so,” he said.

During unscheduled appearances, A-1 Family Furniture co-owner Josh Tomlin approached supervisors about needs for the growing Amory manufacturer. He requested assistance regarding a building need to accommodate demand and provide potential new jobs.

Tomlin’s parents began the business more than 20 years ago, and a CAP loan was worked out through the chamber and county board of supervisors.

“One of our main issues in expanding the business is actually physical property. We’ve got 40,000 square feet, so adding additional labor and equipment is difficult under that footprint,” he said, expressing interest in neighboring United Furniture Industry-owned space.

Board attorney David Houston clarified the county doesn’t own any of the United Furniture properties. West asked if Tomlin wanted the county to purchase a building and lease it to A-1, which Tomlin said would help so more capital could go towards equipment and other needs.

As other options, District 1 Supervisor Joseph Richardson suggested he reach out to Three Rivers Planning and Development District and local banks to help.

Tomlin previously met with Jarvis about the matter.

“He would qualify for whatever direction we want to take. We have an 80 percent loan guarantee program through the Mississippi Development Authority. Based on his job growth and expansion, the company is already qualified for a couple of incentive programs. I think the more creative the board would want to be, we’re equally as creative.

“This type of story – a family-owned, next generation business with 24 to 48 employees with the potential to grow…it’s easier for us to tell the story of why a company stayed here 20 years and grew in a volatile industry than it is to attract one big homerun like Toyota,” Jarvis said.

District 2 Supervisor B.R. Richey said he thinks the board will do whatever it can to help.

Later in the meeting, West asked for chamber updates on accomplishments, which Jarvis committed to present quarterly.

During last Thursday’s American Rescue Plan Act report, Richardson asked if there’s a timeline in sight for planned improvements at Monroe Regional Hospital, particularly with resolving air conditioning issues.

“It seems like we’ve been waiting on estimates and proposals for a year now. Do we have an end in sight,” he asked. “There are employees running around inside the hospital burning up and dripping in sweat.”

Houston said everyone involved is aware the air conditioning matter is a serious problem and wants to move quickly. Engineers associated with the project are continuing to work on specifications and an asbestos survey.