ABERDEEN – During its July 19 meeting, the board of supervisors took action to start the process of lowering fire grading districts to several volunteer fire departments, a step that will hopefully save county residents on insurance rates.

The board held a public hearing on the matter regarding the Hatley, Smithville, Bartahatchie, Becker/Athens, Bethlehem, Cason, Prairie No. 1 and No. 2 and Rural Hill volunteer fire departments. There was no one present to object.

“This is for the rating bureau’s purpose to come in and try to lower these departments. Right now, all of these departments are 10 or higher. This will automatically get them down to a class 9. This will also be able to drop them to an 8 or a 7 after they do a shuttle [test] or something like that. This is not a millage-type deal. This is strictly a grading district for these departments,” said county fire coordinator Terry Tucker.

District 1 Supervisor Joseph Richardson introduced the idea months ago.

“It gives each fire department – this is your area, this is where we’re going to come in and rate you,” he said.

Tucker said Hatley and Smithville VFDs are on the list because their areas go five miles from their fire stations out into the county through the matter.

“It brings in anyone five miles outside of their fire stations that’s in the county, so we’re going to help county residents on their insurance there,” Tucker said.

County attorney David Houston reported on United Furniture Industries’ request for a foreign trade zone status designation.

“They’ve agreed not to claim any additional exemptions if they’re able to get a foreign trade status designation, other than what they would otherwise be able to claim under state law. They will not try to claim any additional exemptions for school taxes or any other taxes. That is really a good corporate citizen trying to do what’s right for Monroe County,” Houston said.

He said the company, which asked for a letter from the county stating it wouldn’t be opposed to such a designation, has had to contend with tariffs dealing with acquisitions from China, and the foreign trade zone status would help.

“It sets a precedent for anybody else who might want to request a foreign trade zone designation. Here’s one that’s really stepped up to the plate that said, ‘Okay, you give us this, and we’re not going to try to escape additional ad valorem taxes from the county and the school districts,’” Houston said.

Houston also said deals closed recently to acquire 68.28 acres of additional space at the Monroe County Landfill and for the refunding of bonds for Monroe Regional Hospital. He said the bonds, which mature in 2026, will provide more than $300,000 worth of savings to the county.

The board also a letter in support of efforts of Tronox and Itawamba Community College to complete a grant from the Department of Labor to providing training opportunities to current employees and those entering the workforce.

“That’s been the going thing lately of community colleges teaming up with industries and manufacturers of coming up with different training paths,” Richardson said.

Rita Berthay of LIFECORE requested $3,000 in county support to help following the expansion of a crisis stabilization unit it has in Tupelo. Monroe County mental commitments may also be served by the eight-bed facility. She added she’s happy to adjust her request.

Monroe County had 433 admissions representative of 1,090 patients seen and more than 23,000 hours of service.

“With chemical dependencies, you had 26 residents that went to our residential facility. Our outpatient had six. You have 14 school therapists, which means every school has a therapist. That’s no charge to the school district, and that’s no cost to the county,” Berthay said.

In other business, District 5 Supervisor Hosea Bogan was approved to donate $600 from his rural recreation funds to Design 2 Win. District 4 Supervisor Fulton Ware, District 2 Supervisor Billy Kirkpatrick and Richardson each donated $500 from their rural rec. funds for the Hatley 8U baseball teams’ trip to the Machine-Pitch World Series in Louisiana. Ware also donated $1,200 in rural rec. funds to the Aberdeen High School athletics program.

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