The Board of Supervisors set into motion the process of refinancing some bonds at significant savings for the taxpayers, the county’s chief financial officer said at Monday’s meeting.

With interest rates at “historic lows,” CFO Charles Miller said, the county could save more than $200,000 by issuing a new bond to pay off road bonds from 2012, 2013 and 2014. The new bond is “not to exceed $8.5 million,” said attorney Michael Russ of Jackson firm Butler Snow. The savings for the county would be an estimated $211,000, Miller said.

Bonds from 2011 and 2012 that paid for the new county nursing home will also be refinanced and the savings for South Central Regional Medical Center will be an estimated $234,000, Miller said. The new bond would not exceed $2.5 million, Russ said. That bond payment is made by the hospital, Miller noted, but it “passes through” the county.

The transactions will be handled by Raymond James Financial, Butler Snow and Government Consultants, Miller said, and supervisors unanimously approved getting the process started.

The board also gave its blessing to the hospital’s purchase of four pieces of property that are adjacent to property it already owns. SCRMC is purchasing property at 319 and 321 South 11th Ave., and vacant lots on 10th Avenue that belong to Hattiesburg Clinic and Miller Optical. The total cost is $520,000, and that will come out of the hospital’s operations budget, CEO Doug Higginbotham told the board.

“We believe these properties can be of benefit to the hospital,” said Higginbotham, who was accompanied by hospital board member Lewis Goins.

Supervisor Phil Dickerson asked if any of the properties were still on the tax rolls. Hattiesburg Clinic and Miller Optical were paying “approximately $13,000,” Higginbotham said, “and we’ll be happy to pay that.”

The board unanimously approved the purchase.

In other business, the board announced that the salary of the youth court judge is increasing from $135,000 to $148,000, by state mandate. The county pays that salary but the state will cover the cost of the increase, said board Chief Administrative Officer Danielle Ashley. Circuit and chancery judge salaries, which are paid by the state, recently increased to $149,000 per year.

The county has been reimbursed $2.8 million from FEMA to cover costs associated with the April tornadoes, Ashley said. The Jones County Emergency Operations Center was given a one-time budget increase of $150,000 to help with extra expenses and work during those disasters, Miller said.

Supervisors unanimously approved the use of Jones College’s Whitehead Technology Building as a temporary courthouse for trials during the Feb. 22-March 12 term of Jones County Circuit Court.

They also extended the mask mandate and the closure of community centers through the first meeting of March, when they will revisit the issue, depending on if the spread of COVID-19 is being better contained. County employees will also be granted paid leave for up to 80 hours if they are forced into quarantine, “but we’ll have to pay that ourselves,” board President Johnny Burnett said. “The federal government isn’t going to pick up the cost this time.”

The Will Knight Road bridge project was deemed complete and accepted by State Aid, Diane Shoemake of county engineer Clark & Associates announced. Bridges on Masonite Lake Road and Norton Road are now under construction and closed.

The board also OK’d five school bus turnarounds on the following properties:

• Lannis Walters on Paul Welborn Road (Beat 1);

• Stanley Jefcoat on Taw Jefcoat Road (Beat 2);

• Nancy Baughman on Highway 184 East (Beat 3);

• Selma Renee Davis on Masonite Lake Road (Beat 3);

• Tiffany Harp on Ovett-Moselle Road (Beat 3)

The board set a special work session to discuss the purchase of new fire trucks for 1 p.m. today (Tuesday) at the Jones County courthouse in Laurel.



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