Cleanup from the April 23 tornado in McComb has passed the half million-dollar mark, according to invoices the city’s public works director presented to selectmen Tuesday night.

Public Works Director Alice Barnes presented multiple bills from Debris Tech, the company monitoring the cleanup, for three payments totaling at about $75,000, along with a $348,861 invoice from Land Company Development for debris removal.

Including past invoices, this brings the total cleanup cost to $547,865, and city officials expect to make at least one more payment before the process is finished.

Selectman Donovan Hill asked Barnes why Debris Tech’s first payment is half the cost of the last two, adding that because the payments are broken up by the week, they should be closer in price.

“Are we having somebody out there, you or city workers, somebody actually seeing what is turned in? Because, in a week’s time, the first week is 14 and the next week is almost double, then the third week is double,” he said. “I mean, are they doing more work in a week’s time or what?”

Barnes said the price is wholely dependant on the type and size of debris that was moved, not the amount of time in between invoices.

“It depends on what they are picking up,” Barnes said. “But no, I have seen the site. I have been to the site, but I don’t stay there while the loads are coming in.”

Barnes said she and representatives with True North, the other company they hired for monitoring, also review the monitoring data.

In another matter, the board spoke with Charles Schilling of the Sunny Hill Water Association about the association’s application for certificate of public convenience and necessity, authorizing it to construct, operate and maintain a sewer system within a specified area in and around Fernwood.

Sunny Hill recently merged its operations with the Fernwood Water Association.

“Fernwood did not have a certificated area when we merged,” Schilling said. “This is to close a loophole.”

This was brought to the board’s attention, along with every resident of Fernwood and neighboring communities, so the public can respond to the proposal. No selectman in attendance at the work session had an issue with the application, but Selectman Ronnie Brock wondered if it would hurt the city in the long run if Fernwood were to be added to the city’s water system.

Lockley said that there is already a sewer system in Fernwood, and Sunny Hill already took it over, but what Schilling is requesting is merely a formality. Furthermore, the acquisition can only help as the city and Sunny Hill are in preliminary talks about taking over Fernwood’s water and sewage operations.

“Down the road, really, it is going to benefit us,” Lockley said. “They actually have come, sat down and talked to me about the possibility of tying it into our system.”

Lockley said Fernwood’s current system will be up for recertification in the next couple years, but it’s likely that the system currently in use will not meet environmental standards, leaving the options of getting the system recertified, updating it or linking it to McComb’s wastewater treatment plant.

In other news, the board heard from incoming Police Chief Garland Ward about the hiring of three new police officers as well as some processors for the department.

Lockley said Ward, who will be sworn in at 11 a.m. Monday, asked him to bring the hirings to the board. The board previously voted to freeze hirings and promotions in the police department until a police chief had been hired. The board agreed to vote on the hirings at next week’s meeting.

Brock suggested having Human Resources Director Donjurea Davis look into applicants’ social media posts to see if they are “connected to any hate group.”

Selectman Devante Johnson asked if Brock knew if that was an issue in the department.

 “We are seeing it throughout the nation,” Brock answered. “I just want to make sure we are getting the cream of the crop.”

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