WINONA – The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors plan to ask the county’s locally-elected state senators and legislator for help in getting the school board makeup of the future Winona Montgomery County Consolidated School District changed to ensure representation for all citizens of the county.
Currently, Senate Bill 2495, which has been signed into law by Governor Phil Bryant, dictates that the consolidated school board will be made up of two elected seats from the area of Montgomery County outside the city limits of Winona and three seats appointed by the Winona Board of Aldermen. This makeup was a hybrid of the current two boards – Montgomery County School District is elected and Winona Separate School District is appointed.
The county has been working with Ben Collins, state’s geographical systems and redistricting expert for the state, to establish the two voting districts for the two elected seats, however, there have been issues. Collins told supervisors recently that it is “impossible” to come up with a black majority district and a white majority district without splitting the current voting districts which would make it difficult on election officials and voters.
From that conversation, supervisors decided to challenge the makeup of the consolidated school board, hoping to have all five seats elected based on supervisor districts.
In Monday’s meeting, the board nominated District 4 Supervisor Ron Wood and District 5 Supervisor Janet Harper to meet with locally-elected state officials to ask for help in getting the legislation changed to a fully-elected board. In addition, the board asked County Attorney Alan D. Lancaster to contact Senator Gray Tollison (R-Oxford), the author of Senate Bill 2495 and chairman of the Senate Education Committee.
According to Harper, she has been approached many times by citizens concerned about the county’s lack of representation on the consolidated school board, mainly due to the possibility that taxes could increase for county residents. However, this early in the consolidation process, the issue of future taxes has not been addressed by state or local school officials.
“In light of those phone calls we’ve been getting, I think we need to go to the Legislature,” Harper said.
Last week, Thomas Austin, a resident of Montgomery County, placed an advertisement in The Winona Times asking citizens concerned about the county’s representation on the consolidated school board to contact their state and local officials and voice those concerns.
A date for the meeting with locally-elected state officials has not been announced.
In other county business:
• The board voted to spend $2,650 to repair six leaking heater vents in the roof of the Montgomery County Coliseum. Dixie Roofing will make the repairs.
• The board approved the purchase of a new air conditioning system at the Montgomery County Courthouse to replace a 10-year-old unit that is no longer functioning. The cost to replace the Lenox unit is $6,000.
• The county accepted bids from Looks Great Services to remove the remaining debris from the April 30 tornadoes from the Town of Kilmichael. Debris Tech received the bid to monitor the debris removal.
• District 3 Supervisor Willie Townsend, Jr., nominated Veronica Carodine to fill a vacant seat on the Tyler Holmes Memorial Hospital’s board of directors, and the board of supervisors approved the appointment.
• Emergency Operations Manager Allan Pratt informed the board that the radio tower at Kilmichael Hospital, damaged by the tornadoes, has been repaired.
• The board announced the closure of a bridge on King Hill Road, off of Dorisville Road, near Highway 413.
• Chancery Clerk Ryan Wood announced that the county’s health insurance premium was down eight percent for the next few months. The county will get its new insurance rates in January.
• Ryan Wood also told the board that the county’s gap insurance plan from Amherst will increase from $93 per county employee to $112 per county employee.
• The board approved the designation of the Lucas Wade Johnson Cemetery.
• The board approved the attendance of Election Commissioner Tracy Campbell and Circuit Clerk Lanelle Martin at Sems Basic Training in Jackson the end of July.
• The board authorized requesting an amendment to the FY2017 EMSOF Grant in the amount of $7,804 to purchase four Mississippi WIN radios for MedStat.
• The board approved the purchase of a new computer and printer for the Veteran’s Service office.
• The board voted to renew a 12-month lease agreement with Rose Business Equipment for the printer in the tax assessor/collector’s office.
• The board approved the attendance of Karen Carter, Jennifer Johnson, and Jerry Dale Bridges to attend the Mississippi Justice Court Clerks annual convention in Bay St. Louis.
• The board recessed until July 31 at 8 a.m.