With city funds and reserves dangerously low, City officials voted to reborrow the $1.5 million they paid back to the city utility department’s capital improvements fund to pay for the cleanup from the April 23 storm.

Along with this, city officials also urge residents to stop putting debris out on the right of way, as cleanup ended last Monday.

After a lengthy discussion about finances and cleanup costs, the board amended the agenda to reborrow the money they paid back to the city’s utility fund in early April.

Selectman Ronnie Brock asked then-City Administrator Dirkland Smith why they paid it back early, noting that Smith knew the city was in a bind. Smith said it was advised by accountant Tommy Lindley, who was leading the audit of the city’s 2018 finances, to pay the loan back as soon as possible.

The board voted 6-0 to take the money back from the utility fund with no discussion.

That came after the board discussed the rising costs of the cleanup effort. The board approved a $337,270 payment to the company responsible for debris removal and disposal, Land Company Development, and a $28,865 payment to Debris Tech, the debris monitoring company.

After these payments, the mayor brought up that the board had to improve an increase of the estimated total the city contracted to pay Land Company Development from $850,000 to $1.5 million.

True North Emergency Management Senior Operations Manager Jim Garner said without extending the contracted amount, the city cannot pay its contractors.

“We can’t let the contractors go any further without extending it,” he said. “That means they stop the work. We cannot pay them, and we cannot ask them to go pick up.”

Selectman Donovan Hill said he was looking for “innovative ways” to reduce the cost of clean up. Garner said there are at least 10 more cubic yards of debris in town, and cleanup can reach up to at least $1.2 million.

Hill asked Lockley if the board could get the Department of Environmental Quality to authorize a burning site for the wood chips, but fire Department Chief Gary McKenzie said that it would be more complicated and costly than one would think.

“It is a lot more complicated than it seems … certainly, if it comes to that, we will do that part, but the logistics of it would be difficult,” McKenzie said.

Lockley said to burn the debris, the city would have to have monitors on-site 24/7 because it will have to be a constant burn. He also noted the current dump site cannot be a burn site because it is next to the McComb-Pike County Airport.

Hill also said the amount of time and debris “does not add up,” suggesting that he does not think the company is working the whole time and is stretching out the work for a higher payout.

“It kind of makes you wonder what they’ve been doing,” he said.

Public Works Director Alice Barnes said she keeps an eye on the dumpsite and her department assists the cleanup crews while double-checking the monitoring company’s numbers.

The discussion ended with a unanimous vote to extend the amount to $1.5 million along with paying the bills to the two companies. Lockley agreed to look further into burning.

Johnson asked board attorney Angela Cockerham, who also is a state representative, if it would be possible to get state funding to help pay the bill and keep from having to borrow money. She said that was possible, but couldn’t say with certainty, and suggested Lockley speak with the local legislators about the issue.

“With the damage the city of McComb sustained if it is something the body can do, it will,” she said, referencing financial help on the cleanup.

In other news, the board:

• Declared vehicles and items from the city’s inventory as surplus, so the city can sell or dispose of old or broken equipment.

• Authorized New Orleans accounting firm Bruno and Tervalon LLP to conduct bookkeeping and financial services for the 2019 financial statement, and a $7,500 payment to Haddox Reid Eubank and Betts accounting firm for the work they did on the 2018 financial statements.

• Approved a $6,960 payment to the Pike County Sheriff’s office for physicians and prescription bills for inmates during the month of June.

• Made a $105,237 payment to Utility Services Co. Inc. from the utility fund for a water tank reinfurbishment.

• Authorized a $19,040 payment to M3A Architects for the MLK Gym Design, with selectman Ronnie Brock giving an update noting the committee has finalized its designs.

• Approved a $171,673 renewal quote and payment from Insurance and Risk Managers.

• Waived a $50 rental to the Camellia City Azalea Court for the use of the Bo Diddley Pavillion noon to 6 p.m. on July 12.

• Approved receiving a retired 2006 Ford Expedition from the Pike County Sheriff’s office donated for a fire investigator’s use. Hill asked what was wrong with it, and McKenzie said nothing was mechanically wrong, but it was not equipped to transfer prisoners.

• Authorized an agreement with Ampstun to add more features to the city’s water billing system, including payment notifications and text to pay.

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