After the appointment of a new county engineer in IMS Engineers and new counsel for the Board of Supervisors in Willie Griffin, many are wondering what the future holds for the county in those regards.
Infrastructure is now a word that triggers somewhat of a less-than-optimistic view based on the context in which it is being used, especially when it comes to the Magnolia State, more specifically Washington County.
County supervisors said there were several reasons they decided to go in a new direction in addressing the infrastructure problem here in Washington County as well as legal counsel.
District five supervisor Jerry Redmond reflected on how far the county has come in regards to its financial state.
“When we came in, the county was $3 million in debt, but we were able to accomplish paying the debt off and even giving raises and purchasing equipment to address the county’s needs,” he said.
He then explained while those accomplishments are admirable, the need for new ideas and a new approach could not be ignored.
“I feel that if we can find a better alternative in our engineering, then we can accomplish more….the way things are now, we can’t get any worse,” he said.
Redmond added his agenda is trying to do things for the taxpayers of Washington County and his goal is to make sure the masses are taken care of in every aspect — infrastructure, work force development, emergency and disaster relief, recreation and anything else that is needed.
District two supervisor Tommy Benson III acknowledged infrastructure as a primary concern and reason for his vote to hire IMS Engineers as well.
“Hooker Engineering Services did a great job,” Benson said, also pointing out the projects they successfully completed during their tenure.
He continued, “Roads and bridges are the thing every city and municipality has to fight because our federal government hasn’t put the money into infrastructure as is needed, so the question becomes ‘Who can do the most with a little?’”
Benson said he believes IMS Engineers just needed a chance to prove themselves even more because they are doing a tremendous job in Hinds County.
“They are an engineering firm for the 21st century,” he added.
Mark Hooker Jr. said his firm hadn’t been given any notification of the change or why a change was made.
“She (Brooks) has not contacted us since the election to voice any concern about the services we provide,” Hooker said. “None of the other supervisors have ever voiced to us any problems with the services we have provided to the county.”
Board president Carl McGee, who voted in favor of retaining Hooker Engineering Services, said conversations were had with other supervisors about performance and the possibility of changing county engineers.
“There are infrastructure issues all over the state….some we wish we could have avoided but we hope with IMS we can have an effective preventative maintenance program,” he said.
On the appointment of Willie Griffin as the board attorney, Benson said, “His accessibility and knowledge of the job is an asset. He is one of the most knowledgeable attorneys probably in the state of Mississippi on county law and everyone would agree. … He did it for nine years, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t do well in this term.”
Griffin has previously served as the BOS attorney and is legal counsel for Mala Brooks in the case, Jesse Amos vs. Mala Brooks, in which Amos is contesting the election of Brooks to the District 4 supervisor seat.