ABERDEEN – A federal disaster declaration signed by President Donald Trump the day before and a $250,000 Mississippi Emergency Management Agency grant agreement were among storm-related topics addressed during June 21’s board of supervisors meeting.
Monroe County Emergency Management Agency Director Donna Sanderson said the county received its federal disaster declaration for public assistance but not for private assistance. Monroe County is one of eight counties on the declaration list.
“I talked to our contractor, and we’ve moved 45,000 cubic yards already, and that’s about $450,000 we’ve already spent,” said county road manager Sonny Clay.
He estimated 40 to 50 percent of the debris had already been moved. The county will have to pay 12.5 percent of the expense, with MEMA picking up 12.5 percent and the Federal Emergency Management Agency covering 75 percent.
While the declaration will provide federal funding for assistance for the cost of debris removal and monitoring, a MEMA grant will provide money to help people who were affected by the April 13 and 14 storms throughout the county with the cost of building supplies.
“The total of the grant will be up to $250,000, and the important thing is it’s being disbursed in $50,000 increments. As you burn through the first $50,000 and they get the receipts, they’ll issue another $50,000,” said county administrator Bob Prisock. “MEMA will send a check to Monroe County, and we will deposit that and then write a check to the 501(c)3 organization, which is the CREATE Foundation, which will have a separate account for this money.”
Monroe Strong, the county’s long-term recovery group will review applications, which are filed by case number rather than by citizens’ names.
“Say if they need 10 2x4s and some shingles, they can put in a request to be put before the [Monroe Strong] board and MEMA to make sure it’s okay before we okay it,” Sanderson said.
The funding does not include rental assistance.
“The first thing we’re going to do is try putting roofs on people’s homes and get them back in their homes, but we’re having mold issues now,” Sanderson said. “The most needy who can’t get in their homes, they’re going to help them first.
“This $250,000 can only be spent on supplies. We’ve got to have donated labor and we’ve got commitments from people like Eight Days of Hope and Methodist Men who are ready to come in and start putting this stuff back together.”
Clay said committees dealing with construction and finances are part of the Monroe Strong effort.
In separate weather-related issues, Galloway-Chandler-McKinney Insurance agent Mike Manning spoke to the board regarding deductibles and claims related to February flood damage to the Bigbee Community Center and the county morgue, which was destroyed during April’s tornadoes.
In speaking about last week’s federally mandated closure of the Buttahatchie River bridge on Bartahatchie Road, Clay said the contractor was expected to begin work earlier this week, and he hopes for it to be reopened within a week’s worth of work. The federal bridge inspection was done last November.
In other business, Aberdeen City Clerk Jackie Benson and Sonny Long, who is renting a city-owned building at Prairie Industrial Site, requested the county’s approval in letting him rent the former Worldwide Surplus building, which is jointly owned by the city and county.
The building needs items left by the previous tenant cleaned out. Long and the Aberdeen Board of Aldermen agreed to terms allowing him to rent the building for free for six months while it’s being cleaned out and for a rate of $500 per month after then. He plans to use it for storage.
It was added there are container units of cooking grease left there, and Long wanted to include he’s not liable for them.
After discussion, supervisors approved to the terms, with the contingent the county will attempt to notify the previous tenant and to make sure there’s no hazard associated by moving the grease.
Supervisors approved to move forward with an appraisal at the Monroe County Airport as part of a project buying out lease interests in order to tear down three dilapidated hangars, extending the ramp and rehabbing some existing runways. The airport will receive supplemental funding next year to do the work.
“Right now we don’t have a value on our land, and we’ve been renting it for $50 per year, and the FAA says, ‘No,’ so any future ground leases will be rented on fair market value from this appraisal,” said airport manager Wes Kirkpatrick.
The appraiser sent a proposal of $6,000 with travel fees not to exceed $1,200 for the work. Kirkpatrick said the appraisal will lead to an income increase.
Sandi Roberts appeared on behalf of Cardiac Solutions to request consideration for the county to budget funds for Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) for Monroe County Sheriff’s Office deputy cars. The cost would be $1 per day per unit. Supervisors will study it as a potential budget item.
Supervisors also approved the resignation of Amory veteran services officer Larry Keith Crosby, Jr. Later in the meeting, Prisock shared information from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Last year, we had a veteran population in Monroe County of 2,350. The VA spent, in Monroe County, $16,318,000, and $10,206,000 of that was compensations and pensions, which is what our veterans services offices help people get,” he said.
Following up on a topic from earlier this year, board attorney David Houston said a Brownfields grant will not be available through Three Rivers Planning and Development District for the former Holley Performance building in Aberdeen.
The board approved for ID Shield representative Anna Dobbs to present identity theft protection as an optional payroll deduction to county employees.
James Woodall from Cook Coggin Engineers said board president Billy Kirkpatrick signed the storm water pollution permit for the Coontail bridge project. District 4 Supervisor Fulton Ware asked when it will start, and Woodall said the permit was the first step but he didn’t have a timeline.
District 3 Supervisor Chip Chism asked for a link from the state treasurer’s office about unclaimed funds be added to the county’s website.
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For Kenny Cross of Lackey, a four-day weekend getaway to Orange Beach, Alabama in May was a nice vacation. Contracting bacteria from swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, enduring his right leg swelling to three times its normal size and spending 15 days at the North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, however, gives him a different review of the trip. As he continues to heal, his advice to beachgoers is simple.
“Swim in the pool and look at the water,” he said. “I’ve heard several stories [of bacteria contractions], and people are still piling to the beach and piling in the water but won’t quit until it happens to them.”
After spending an hour or so chest-deep in teal blue Gulf water, everything seemed normal. Forty-eight hours later on the drive home, he caught a sudden chill.
“We left at 10:30 Sunday and by the time we got to Meridian, he was freezing. He instantly started shaking and shivering and he wouldn’t let me drive. It was 92 degrees outside, and he had the heater on,” said his wife, Hope.
Kenny added he was steadily getting colder but after getting rest and Gatorade at home, he felt well enough to go back to work the next day. That night, he started having flu-like symptoms and went to see a doctor in Aberdeen first thing the next morning.
After being told he needed to go to the hospital and on to the North Mississippi Medical Center, Kenny’s worsening conditions, including cellulites, indicated by red and swollen skin, quickly elevated to going septic and having six IVs of antibiotics. In Tupelo, he underwent x-rays, CT scans, blood tests, wound tests and visits from surgeons and infectious disease specialists. His right leg started to swell during this time as well.
“The first seven to 10 days, I didn’t even know where I was,” he said.
Although he has since been able to return home, Kenny was receiving continued home health care until last Tuesday.
“We realized what happened when Dr. [Kevin] Hayes [at Monroe Regional Hospital] said he got something in the water. Infectious disease told us they couldn’t isolate which bacteria but said it was in the streptococcus pyogenes family. The reason it was climbing up his leg was because it wanted a blood source. It was going towards his heart,” Hope said.
Early in Kenny’s medical care, Dr. Hayes used a magnifying glass and flashlight to look for an open wound but couldn’t find anything. The last place to heal will indicate where the bacteria entered Kenny’s body, and it is thought to have been at the top of his foot.
“We were told it can enter through a hair follicle, a mosquito bite or a sand gnat bite. If you shave your legs, you’re at risk,” Hope said.
“The pain has been pretty bad. On a scale from 1 to 10, it’s been 6, closer to 7,” Kenny said of his leg.
Doctors have said it will take time for his leg to heal. As of last week, a month after first getting sick, it was still discolored but starting to get a little better.
Health officials said bacteria in the water are common, but safety warning systems are in place. Hope said a purple flag warning, which alerts beachgoers of beach pests, was issued after they left Orange Beach.
“These bacteria exist worldwide. Sometimes you see an increase because you see more people using the beach and the water, so the probability goes up. Mississippi has the same potential to have the same bacteria as Alabama,” said Alabama Department of Public Health Environmental Toxicologist Dr. John Guarisco.
He recommends for anyone who sustains an injury while in the water to wash it with soap and water and use antiseptic ointment.
“Bandage it and monitor it. If the wound gets hot and reddens, go see a doctor because there’s an infection, and it could get worse,” he said.
Mississippi, Alabama and Florida are among the list of states with beach monitoring programs, which track enterococcus bacteria levels in the water off of coastlines.
“We test for indicators for bacteria presence and track advisories there. We also have email and text lists, Tweet it out and send releases to local media,” said Robbie Wilbur, communications director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, in explaining the Mississippi Beach Monitoring Program. “When there’s rain or wind events, that’s when we’re more likely to get those advisories. We recommend for people to not swim 24 hours after a significant rainfall.”
Guarisco said bacteria counts increase as animal feces is washed out through river systems and into larger bodies of water such as the Mississippi Sound and the Gulf of Mexico.
“Be cautious about recreating around congregations of waterfowl. They let go in the water and are not very particular of it,” Guarisco said.
Mississippi’s program tracks bacteria presence at 21 monitoring stations along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. When bacteria advisories are issued, signs are placed at the beach to notify the public water isn’t safe for human contact, but the beach, itself, is not closed.
Earlier this year, two separate instances of flesh-eating bacteria were reported close to Tampa. Kenny’s case was not flesh-eating bacteria.
Greg Dunn, environmental director for the southwest district of the Alabama Department of Public Health, said there have not been any cases of flesh-eating bacteria on the Alabama Gulf Coast he is aware of.
“True flesh-eating bacteria is different than vibrio. Some people refer to flesh-eating bacteria as vibrio. Vibrio can be caused by raw oyster consumption and wound contact in the Mobile Bay area where there are darker waters but also in some beach areas,” Dunn said. “Last year, we had several vibrio cases caused mainly by oyster consumption.”
Dunn said people could contract bacteria through cuts by fish fins or by cutting themselves on a fish hook.
Bacteria presence increases in warmer waters. Guarisco’s tips to stay safe include avoiding contact with water that is murky and/or covered with scum; avoiding getting water in your mouth and eyes; showering with soap and water after swimming; and not consuming shell fish if you have underlying health issues such as liver disease.
“It’s fun going out into the surf. Enjoy it but be advised,” Guarisco said. “You’re not going to escape bacteria; just take the precautions. You always take a chance when you go into the water with an injury. Don’t be scared to go in the water; just be smart about it.”
Both Amory and Nettleton will host free events June 29 capped off with fireworks shows to celebrate ahead of Independence Day.
Amory’s ceremony, Red, White & Boom, will be held behind the East Amory Community Center next to Longenecker Field. It begins at 7 p.m. and is coordinated by the Amory Parks and Recreation Department. Derrick Maranto, who organizes park and rec. events, said the fireworks show will most likely start between 8:30 and 8:45 p.m. when it gets dark enough. He said the fireworks show will be similar to last year’s event.
Leading up to the fireworks show, there will be inflatables, yard games such as corn hole, treats available for purchase such as snow cones, cotton candy and kettle corn and live music provided by Memphis Jones.
Memphis Jones has performed internationally, with several recent local appearances including Tupelo’s Elvis Fest in June. His musical range includes blues, rock, soul and R&B, and his live shows are heavily laced with Elvis Presley classic covers.
Sponsors for Amory’s fireworks are McDonald’s, R&L, Renasant Bank, Community Bank, Amory Main Street, Dykes Heating and Air, Enviva, Star Printing, HMB Graphics, True Temper Sports, Palmer Machine Works, Burger King, Alsup Heating and Cooling, the Monroe County Board of Supervisors and Coggin Asset Management.
A short distance away, Friends of Nettleton will host a movie in the park with a screening of the 1992 Disney animated film “Aladdin,” followed by fireworks at Goat Rye Field. Gathering begins at 7:30 p.m., and the movie will start some time between 8 and 8:30 p.m.
“It’s our usual thing we do every year,” said Friends of Nettleton President Emily Payne. “Friends of Nettelton will do concessions, and all of the proceeds go back to our projects.”
The Nettleton Fire Department will assist with the fireworks show, and all of the fireworks were purchased locally.
Payne said people are allowed to bring coolers to the event.
On July 20, Friends of Nettleton will host another movie in the park as part of a back to school bash. People will be asked to bring school supplies for Nettleton School District students at the July event.
As far as more upcoming Fourth of July fun, Smithville will host Sparks in the Park July 4, and the Taste of Aberdeen Family Reunion will be held July 5 and 6. For more information about those events, check out the July 3 edition of the Monroe Journal.