According to Johnson, his “hands are tied” as to what offenses can be punishable with a sentence to one of the state’s youth detention centers. “Status offenses,” meaning any offense not illegal if committed by an adult like curfew violations and truancy, cannot be punished by a stay in a detention center. In addition, confinement in the state’s sole juvenile training school, Oakley Youth Development Center located in Hinds County, is only for juveniles who commit felony offenses. Oakley serves all 82 counties in Mississippi.
Johnson said due to overcrowding in regional juvenile detention centers and an increased expense to send juvenile offenders to a juvenile detention center, in many misdemeanor cases, he is forced to turn custody over to the parents.
Currently, the closest juvenile detention center is located in Leflore County. Cost to house a juvenile offender for one night is between $100 and $130, up from $75 in the past.
“I’m looking for some community-based options,” Johnson said.
Johnson told the board that currently he has ordered juvenile offenders to participate in a community clean-up program beginning at 6 a.m. on Saturday mornings.
“I have taken it upon myself to have the children clean up at 6 a.m. on Saturday,” Johnson said. “I can do community service activities.”
Johnson said currently there are no after-school programs in Montgomery County. He explained in the past, he had sent kids to an adolescent offender program organized by a non-profit group, but funding was exhausted.
“I’ve been looking into a couple of other programs,” Johnson said.
Mayor Jerry Flowers and the aldermen committed to help Johnson in any way, and Johnson said some citizens also had offered help.
“It’s going to take some time to correct this,” Johnson said. “I know there are a lot of passionate people about this, but I hope that these same people have that same passion a year from now.”
In other city business:
• Tony Young appeared before the board to voice his outrage that the city’s liability insurance claim to pay for the damage his Coleman Street home sustained after the sewer backed up and flooded his home was denied. In the past, the city’s liability insurance company has paid for damage sustained from sewer backup in residences. However, because of a 2011 decision by the Mississippi Supreme Court saying a municipality is not liable for damage from sewer backup, the company denied claims regarding three residences, Young’s included, that were flooded on the same day by the same sewer main.
According to Young, because the city took responsibility for the damage, his own insurance company will not pay for the repairs.
The board asked Flowers to contact the insurance company on behalf of Young and dispute the decision.
• The city was awarded an emergency grant of $25,000 from the Delta Regional Authority to repair collapsed sewer lines in the Simpson Drive/Angelica Drive vicinity of Highway 51. The collapse left sink holes and a foul odor near several homes just south of Walmart.
• At the recommendation of Chief Brad Mooneyham, James Barry Carpenter was promoted from part-time firefighter to fulltime. Carpenter will have to attend the Mississippi State Fire Academy to receive certification.
The board also voted to hire Jason Woods as a part-time volunteer firefighter for the Winona Fire Department.
• The board approved the request from Mooneyham to layout a C-PAP Course in the parking lot behind Winona City Hall for firefighter training.
• At the recommendation of Chief Johnny Hargrove, Crystal Williams was hired as a patrolman at the Winona Police Department. Williams is relocating to Winona from Grenada where she worked at the Grenada Police Department.
• City Attorney Ray Baum presented the board with an amended Winona sign ordinance that will allow banner signs to be used by mobile businesses. The board requested Baum write an amendment to the current sign ordinance at the July 1 meeting.
• The board moved to begin condemnation procedures on several properties, at the recommendation of code enforcement officer James “Smitty” Smith. The board voted to begin proceedings on 409 Campbell Street, 742 Greensboro Street, 112 Jackson Street, 604 North Central Avenue, 621 Burns Road, 205B North Front Street, and 614 Silver Street.
The board also set a public hearing regarding property located at 822 Campbell Street for the first Tuesday in September.
• The board reappointed Sue Stidham, Seth Kent, Tim McBride, and Maggie Forrest to the Winona Zoning Board for a three-year term. The aldermen voted to table the appointment of a new member to fill the fifth seat on the board.
• Aldermen voted to begin cleanup efforts at a brick storage building near the City Barn, as it was proposed by Alderman David Ware to use the building as a future animal shelter. The building currently houses the city’s Christmas decorations as well as other items street superintendent Andy McCorkle said could be thrown away. After the building is emptied, water superintendent Frank Faulkner will assess the building’s drainage infrastructure to see if the building is conducive for an animal shelter.
• The board adopted a resolution to provide $9,828 as matching funds if the city is awarded a Small Town Grant recently applied for with the intention of paving Powell Street. The city applied for the same grant last year but was not awarded the grant.