November 19, 2019 10:13:43 AM
Oktibbeha supervisors decided Monday to further research membership in the Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District before choosing whether to join.
The board voted in September to agree that the county would benefit from joining the Tupelo-based state agency, which does flood control, cleanup and repair projects on waterways of all sizes in 12 northeast Mississippi counties. Oktibbeha County could become the 13th, but District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery said he did not want the county to join an agency that does not provide the option of leaving if the board changes its mind.
He said he has talked with supervisors in other counties, who told him it could take years for the water management district to bring its services to the county because they work where they determine they are most needed.
"The need may be quite evident here in Oktibbeha County, but there's nothing that says they've got to do work here, so I want something with some more guarantees in it," Montgomery told The Dispatch.
The county needs to have more discussions with other counties to find out if they got their money's worth out of water management district membership, which would cost $139,000 per year indefinitely, and consider other water management options, Montgomery said.
District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams advocated for joining the water management district in light of recent storms that left fallen trees and floodwaters in creeks and on people's property.
"There are individuals, especially in my district, whose home area is flooded out and they can't even get out of their house," Williams said.
The county does not currently have any outside resources to help with creek cleanup, and Williams said the debris in District 5 builds up and travels downstream from the northern parts of the county.
All four supervisors present agreed the county needs to work with a water management agency to clean waterways and aid residents with flooded properties. District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller was absent Monday.
District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard agreed with Montgomery's misgivings about not being able to back out of the water management district.
"I'm definitely not a no (on joining)," Howard said. "I definitely think it's something that we would benefit from."
He suggested the board vote to table the discussion and research the pros and cons of the Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District, and the board voted unanimously in favor.
If the county joins the district, the supervisors and the governor will each appoint a member representing Oktibbeha County to the water management district board.
Property taxes fund the district's services, and the county does not need to increase millage rates in order to receive them, County Administrator Emily Garrard said at the Sept. 13 meeting. The county would have to dedicate a maximum of half a mill to the water management district, but it would reallocate existing millage instead of raising taxes, she said Monday.
The board also voted unanimously to ask county engineer Clyde Pritchard to look into repairing a ditch adjacent to the Hillbrook subdivision in District 5 southeast of Starkville. The ditch needs protective rocks and permeable fabric placed on the banks to prevent further erosion, Williams said.
The board will not vote on whether to add those materials to the ditch until Pritchard reports back with more information. Board attorney Rob Roberson said the supervisors should ask for permission from the state Legislature for road projects such as this one.
"From a taxpayer standpoint, we're probably spending twice the money trying to keep our road from washing away," Roberson said.
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