As McComb continues to struggle with a police officer shortage, the city board hired two officers to make up for the losses the department had last month.

The board hired McComb native Keyanna Martin and Kayla Moore. Both officers are certified. Police Chief Garland Ward said Martin has  seven years of previous law enforcement experience and Moore has 10 years.

“Chief, I must say you are diversifying your department,” Mayor Quordiniah Lockley said.  “You are trying to fill those spots. I have to commend you.”

This brings the police departments patrol staff up to 16, according to a recent count of patrol officers. The department is limited to 23 positions until Oct. 1, when the new budget takes effect. The department in recent years has had as many as 33 positions, but Ward eliminated four to give officers an increase in hourly pay.

In other news, the board stalled the Alpha Center project after a lengthy discussion about the bidding process.

The discussion was sparked when Recreation Department Director Joyce Smith brought a $25,103 quote to fix the center’s ceiling and a $28,650 quote to fix the wiring. Selectman Ronnie Brock asked Smith who would be replacing the air conditioning ductwork, noting that the man replacing the ceiling did not budget demolition.

Smith said the air conditioning would be part of Phase 3 of the project, noting that she has not gotten a quote on the repairs and demolition of the air conditioning yet.

Selectman Michael Cameron said it does not make sense for a contractor to come into the building to tear the ceiling out then have to wait while another contractor replaced the air conditioning.

He asked board attorney Angela Cockerham if it was legal to break the project up like this, and she said it was because it was being done in phases.

“With these two phases right here in front of us, we are at $39,000, and then she had a bid on HVAC for $40,000,” Cameron said, noting that the city must advertise for bids for the work for projects over $50,000. “... We are at $80,000 right there, so I am trying to tread lightly.”

Cockerham said she monitored Smith and the project to make sure it was not curtailing bid laws and it was hers and Smith’s intent to stay in the boundaries of the law.

“If it is one project, it needs to be specified as such. I’m with you as well. I don’t think anyone around this table is trying to circumvent the bidding process,” Cockerham said.

Cameron said he couldn’t see the project to tear the ceiling down and the project to fix the air conditioning as two separate jobs because one contractor depends on the other to do their work, so he offered a motion to table the discussion.

“I would be very comfortable with this if we did one project this quarter and another project next quarter. ... That would be fine in my book, but letting one contractor come in and tear something out and waiting for another contractor to come in and call that two phases, I think we are on thin ice,” he said.

Selectman Shawn Williams, who was a driving force in starting the project off, agreed.

“Even though this is my ward and I want to see something get done, I also want us to be on the same page and comfortable,” Williams said. “I want to make sure we are comfortable with the decisions we make.”

In other news, the board:

• Accepted a $2,803,734 bid from Dickerson & Bowen Inc. for the city’s overlay project for multiple road repairs. Lockley said this was the closest bid experiences he has had while working for the city, noting a difference of just $7,800.

• Approved a $250,597 payment to Great Southern Recreation for splash pad improvements, which will increase the pressure of the pads in East McComb and Algiers. Smith noted the East McComb pad was broken into twice.

• Authorized a monthly $1,625 payment to Delta Computer Systems and continued its agreement with the company for software support.

• Received a $100 donation from Earl and Martha McGehee for the McComb Animal Shelter.

• Approved a $7,700 payment to the Pike County Sheriff’s office for the housing of city inmates in June.

• Authorized the transfer of taskforce equipment from the McComb Fire Department to the Lamar County Emergency Management Agency.

• Accepted a $23,600 quote from Robert Scott for the next phase of construction at the McComb Fire Department training facility.

• Amended the city’s funeral bereavement leave policy to give employees three days of paid leave per immediate family member. The previous policy gave three days total.

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