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Supervisor wants return to the beat system

 

Tim Pratt

 

STARKVILLE -- Oktibbeha County Supervisor Orlando Trainer has long been a proponent of road-improvement projects in his district, but he''s felt limited by the unit system under which the county operates. 

 

Trainer on Monday said he wants his fellow supervisors to consider consolidating governments with the city of Starkville, or changing the county''s form of government from a unit system to a beat system, which would give supervisors more power in their individual districts. Trainer represents District 2.  

 

"One of the things that kind of disturbs me is, a lot of times with the unit system, people will call you about something and it''s a maintenance issue, and you just wait to see when it''s going to be addressed," Trainer said. "It may be weeks, months. Some of them may never get addressed. It may be something as small as putting up a sign. Little things like that, under the beat system, you could address those things. You would put the power back into the hand that the people elect." 

 

"Under this unit system, people call me with road concerns and questions all the time, but they don''t realize from a maintenance standpoint I''m not the one who makes those decisions," Trainer continued. "The person who makes that decision is who? It''s the road manager, not me." 

 

Road improvement projects, such as paving and overlaying, have to be approved by the five-member Board of Supervisors under the unit system, while the beat system would give each supervisor power to govern his individual district, Trainer said. A beat system also would allow supervisors to issue bonds for infrastructure improvements within their individual districts, which would lead to different tax levels in different districts, Trainer said. A bond issue in one district wouldn''t affect taxes in another district, he said.  

 

Trainer said he''s done hours of research on the subject and feels a beat system is the "best way to improve our county." 

 

"I always say it''s not necessarily the form (of government) that you''re in, but the players and how they operate in that form," Trainer said. "But I think, from a personal standpoint, I''d like to be in a position to where I could actually do more. In my district, there are a lot of needs and a lot of desires out there and I think I could be of assistance to help, to provide a service or something ..." 

 

The county initially formed under the beat system, but residents in 1987 voted in a referendum to switch to the unit system, Trainer said. Fifteen hundred petition signatures would be needed to bring about a referendum to switch back to the beat system.  

 

The board took no action Monday, but Trainer''s proposal was greeted with some skepticism.  

 

District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard said Trainer was speaking in "generalities" and warned how the county would have to buy new maintenance equipment, such as road graders, for each district if it were to switch to the beat system. And that would cost money.  

 

District 4 Supervisor Daniel Jackson also was skeptical, saying he wouldn''t campaign in favor of the beat system.  

 

Board President and District 5 Supervisor John Young also questioned Trainer.  

 

"It seems to me like you''re kind of leaning toward wanting to act as an individual supervisor to control your own district instead of acting collectively, as we do right now," Young said.  

 

If supervisors were to pursue Trainer''s other suggestion, for the county to consolidate with the city of Starkville, the change would have to be made by the state Legislature. The board didn''t discuss consolidation in-depth, but after the meeting Trainer said it would benefit the county in more ways than one.  

 

"That (consolidation) could open up a lot of opportunities for our area," Trainer said. "I''d be one of the first ones to say, ''I know it may jeopardize the salary I got and jeopardize some of the perks I got,'' but at the same time, if that thing happened in this county, it would put the county in a better position for my children ... to be more successful." 

 

"When you bring those (city and county) resources together, you''re not going to save money, but that''s not the object," Trainer continued. "The object is to provide a greater service and more efficient service, like policing, for example." 

 

Trainer urged his fellow supervisors to consider the consolidation idea, but acknowledged it''s less likely to gain widespread support than the change from a unit system to a beat system.  

 

The next Board of Supervisors meeting is scheduled for Nov. 2 at 10 a.m. in the Oktibbeha County Courthouse.

 

 

 

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Reader Comments

Article Comment MB commented at 10/20/2009 2:46:00 PM:

If he wants to save the county some money why not consolidate the two school districts, Oktibbeha County and Starkville into one! Eliminate the expense of having to pay two full administrative staffs for a county with a population of 44,000. He should petition our legislators to consolidate the districts! There are about 900 students in the county and about 4100 in the city. There is no reason why they can not have one school district! Heck the two administrative offices are less than a mile from each other!! If they really want to save the county some money they should start here.

 

Article Comment KG commented at 10/21/2009 3:53:00 PM:

What about the beat system corruption that was brought to light regarding the kickbacks to the supervisors during the FBI's Operation Pretense sting in the 80's in Mississippi? In particular, construction (many times roads) was the most abused aspect..

 

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