Monroe Journal

State representative pledges to address garbage bill law

By Ray Van Dusen

ABERDEEN – A reoccurring topic the board of supervisors has addressed for years regarding delinquent garbage bills could possibly get some reprieve in Jackson.

State law mandates delinquent garbage bills are attached to addresses rather than to former property owners who generated the bills, which has led to hurdles for many people inheriting such outstanding bills in obtaining their license plates.

During July 8’s supervisors meeting. District 16 Rep. Rickey Thompson asked for relief for a Monroe County resident responsible for paying $3,000-plus delinquent garbage bills from 2005 and 2008 associated with property he owns. The bills were created by a previous owner.

After hearing first-hand struggles that not only residents but county supervisors have gone through with the state law, Thompson committed to try making a change.

“You can change that law down there. The statute of limitations is terrible; they go back to 1990 and ’89 sometimes, and we can’t do anything about that because it’s the law y’all passed, not us,” said District 2 Supervisor B.R. Richey.

The state law predates Thompson’s tenure in the Mississippi House of Representatives.

Richey suggested attaching delinquent garbage fees to the responsible party’s driver’s license rather than a person who may purchase the property years later. Many times, delinquent garbage liens have been missed in the process of title searches.

“I understand everybody’s frustrations. There are 122 representatives and 52 senators, which means we’ve got to get together on the same page and make people aware,” Thompson said.

Board attorney David Houston said supervisors have addressed similar instances with delinquent garbage bills numerous times. Supervisors have tried lobbying for a change in the state law with no luck.

District 1 Supervisor Joseph Richardson said board members have seen the heartache residents have been through when faced with large garbage bills they didn’t create but are still responsible for paying.

Thompson asked for Houston to write a letter to give him a starting point to work on and said he could talk to other state representatives about the issue.

“Laws sometimes need to be changed, and this is one of those laws we really need to start looking into,” Thompson said. “All it takes is one voice to get things moving, so I’ll start talking to the rest of them that this is a constant thorn that’s been with everybody when it comes to garbage bills.”

Board president Hosea Bogan wanted for constituents to know the law has been in place for a while and supervisors cannot go against it or any law. Supervisors do not make state laws; the Mississippi Legislature does.

Federal building renovation

Demolition work on the Thomas G. Abernethy Federal Building in Aberdeen began ahead of schedule last week, and Judge Sharion Aycock gave a report to supervisors.

Birmingham-based Brasfield & Gorrie is the lead contractor, and Aycock said the company has completed several public works projects, such as courthouses.

“The contractor was chosen over a year ago and has been at the table with us for over a year. They’ve been at the table with us designing the building ready to build. What that means is that construction will be expedited. Now that we have a set of plans for the design, we don’t have to go out and bid that, which saves lots of time,” Aycock said.

The anticipated length of construction time is 21 months, but there’s a possibility it could be completed ahead of then. The U.S. District Court is anticipated to move back to the building in spring 2024.

Everything on the inside of the building, including heating and cooling, will be replaced, and a new vestibule will be added to compliment the building. The Post Office will remain open during the construction.

Aycock noted the contractor is in need of a 4,000- to 5,000-square-foot climate-controlled storage space, and county officials suggested a particular location at the Prairie Industrial Site for consideration.

Several workers with the project are also seeking temporary housing for its duration.

Aycock thanked Sen. Roger Wicker, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Congressman Trent Kelly for their efforts to help secure $24.3 million through Congress to fund the project, as well as supervisors for their support.

County officials, in turn, thanked Aycock for her efforts through to keep the court in Aberdeen, saying it was because of her drive and persistence the project is coming into fruition.

“I think everyone in this room owes you a tremendous debt of gratitude for your leadership in moving this thing forward. Had it not been for you, judge, this would still be vacant down the road. It was your leadership and your leaning on the right people to get this done,” Houston said.

In late 2017, members of the community met with U.S. District Court officials and representatives from the federal building’s owner, General Services Administration, and Aycock stressed concerns about mold issues and the need for remediation.

“I don’t think this community understands how important it was to have that meeting in December 2017. Everybody spoke up, and that was the turning point. I think after that, Washington and central office in D.C. started realizing we really did have a problem and had to do something about it,” Aycock said.

During his input later in the meeting, District 4 Supervisor Fulton Ware talked about how the federal building’s renovation and efforts to restore the Parkway Hotel across the street will be good for Aberdeen.

In other business, Ware was approved to donate $1,000 from his rural recreation department for the Aberdeen athletics boosters club.