To the Editor | Time to Sunset Hancock Solid Waste Authority

At the July 17, 2017, meeting of the Hancock County Board of Supervisors, Board President, Blaine La Fontaine, introduced the discussion for the dissolution of the Hancock County Solid Waste Commission. He concurred with the opinion of a growing number of citizens that this is an unnecessary layer of government for the taxpayers to support. La Fontaine backed up his statement with a study that he said revealed a savings of at least $125,00 a year in engineering and legal services alone. He suggested an inter-local agreement with the 3 cities similar to what Harrison County does and an invoice system for the collection of costs. In a county like Hancock where 75% of the school children are on free lunch, and the other 25% of the population are paying the bills, any savings is welcome news to the payers, and also exhibits a sense of fiscal responsibility on the part of our elected officials. Those were the viable “meat and potatoes” benefits outlined in the Board President’s presentation.

Since that presentation by La Fontaine, The Hancock County Alliance for Good Government has been doing some research of our own at the Solid Waste Commission reviewing minutes, audits, budgets, etc. Overages in engineering and legal fees are commonplace, and unfortunately go unaddressed by the Commission. Sadly, no mention in any minutes by the Commissioners of attempting to curtail these overages.

While all of the aforementioned issues matter on the bottom line to the taxpayers, the real selling point for the dissolution of this extra layer of county government came sharply into focus when Alliance members attended the June 10, meeting of the Commission. The lack of interest of the Commissioners is disturbing. Two didn’t utter one word during the entire meeting. The annual audit was presented without any pertinent questions. It was probably the shortest audit presentation to a public body we have ever witnessed. One Commissioner actually admitted he had not even read the audit even though it was sent to them in advance of the meeting.

The most egregious section of the meeting was when The Alliance asked the Commissioners about a resolution they passed in their minutes March 12, 2018 (15 months ago) to write to the MDEQ asking for MDEQ’s support of the Commission’s approval of the upgrade of another landfill in the county. I had personally visited the Solid Waste Office and made a Public Records Request for the Commission’s letter to MDEQ and MDEQ’s response when I found the resolution in their minutes. The secretary contacted me the next day to say my request could not be granted because there was no document available due to a decision by the Commission not to proceed in contacting MDEQ. A further review of their minutes has revealed no discussion, decision, or motion subsequent to March 12, 2018, resulting in a decision not to write to MDEQ. But, it is all too apparent that decision was made at sometime between March 12, 2018 and June 10, 2019, because the March 12, 2018, resolution they passed is still sitting in their minutes without being acted upon. Continue reading “To the Editor | Time to Sunset Hancock Solid Waste Authority”

Bill of Exceptions Update: Boudin Environmental v Hancock Sups

There is nothing like a good ol’ fashioned landfill controversy to keep the news mill filled. Let’s start back at the beginning with Cassandra Favre’s account of the April 2, 2019 Board of Supervisor’s meeting for the Sea Coast Echo:

The Hancock County Board of Supervisors on Monday voted 3-2 to deny Boudin’s Environmental Waste’s request to upgrade the dump site on Rifle Range Road to a Class One.

On Feb. 12, the Hancock County Solid Waste Authority hosted a public hearing and later, unanimously approved the application and amendment to the solid waste management plan.

What’s interesting here is the fact that Board of Supervisor President Blaine Lafontaine voted to allow the Class One Rubbish site as a then member of the Solid Waste Authority. He would late change his point of view on the issue when it came before him again at the Board of Supervisor’s meeting. There are a couple of other snippets that need further color:

According to an MDEQ report, LaFontaine said, statewide there has been a 22 percent increase in out-of-state rubbish in the past five years.

King Landfill is the only current active site in Hancock County, LaFontaine said. Over the past five years, the site went from receiving 22,000 tons to 18,000 tons and 11,000 from out-of-state down to 5,000, he said.

LaFontaine said that the question before the board is, “is there a need in Hancock County?” He said that maybe the only thing the board could look at as a “need” would be competitive pricing.

MDEQ recommends there be two Class One sites in the county, one in the north end and one in the south end. The site Boudin wants to operate is close to the south side, LaFontaine said.

Gotta give Cassandra props here because her account of the political crawfishin’ is a good depiction of the events that day. First Lafontaine bobs by citing a statewide factoid that, even if true, is not an accurate picture of the reality in Hancock County, which has seen a pretty steep decline in out of state trash. The third paragraph tells the tale because the three Sups that voted against the recommendation of the Solid Waste Authority were really more interested in protecting the existing landfill monopoly in Hancock Parish than fostering price competition and creating new jobs. District 1 Sup David Yarborough summed it up: Continue reading “Bill of Exceptions Update: Boudin Environmental v Hancock Sups”

Under FBI Investigation and Siege by Four PO’d Municipalities: Slabbed Presents the Jackson County Utility Authority

So folks is this a nothing burger or something different? It isn’t often that those close to the target of the investigation discloses it to the public in the newspaper:

FBI is investigating the Jackson County Utility Authority, official says ~ Karen Nelson

That story stuck with me with a few reasons as the JCUA has shown up in the news for another reason too:

Cities vote to sue: You spent $159M on county, not us ~ Karen Nelson

So now we have an FBI Investigation that Supervisor Randy Bosarge implies may be related to political infighting on the Utility Authority Board. I guess my question is if that is true and its a bunch of dogs fighting over the same piece of meat, who is minding the doghouse because the Utility Authority lost a boatload of money in 2016 along with violating its 2016 Bond Issue Covenants. (H/T to a concerned reader) Continue reading “Under FBI Investigation and Siege by Four PO’d Municipalities: Slabbed Presents the Jackson County Utility Authority”

A County Apart: Hancock Sups talk dissolving Hancock Solid Waste, gets push back from all the likely political interests

There’s too many pigs for the teats ~ Abraham Lincoln (As quoted by Shelby Foote in Ken Burns The Civil War)

Last month Slabbed took a look at the Hancock County Solid Waste Authority Budget as it was topical in political circles locally and sure enough on July 17th the County Board of Supervisors opened discussion about the future of the authority which is, with the possibility of one exception, unique in the State of Mississippi. Neighboring Harrison County for instance uses interlocal agreements for trash collection as administered by the Utility Authority, another local political subdivision that exists in most every county in the state including Hancock County. Put in simpler terms Hancock County is an outlier in having a separate layer of government to administer the trash collection contracts. That layer of government costs extra money to maintain and that is why the Board of Sups is looking at eliminating the Authority.

Before I get to Dwayne Bremer’s account of that portion of the July 2017 Supervisor meeting the following has to be set up. A frequent criticism I get at Slabbed from those readers that are not from this immediate area is that Slabbed writes “too much to the inside” and what that means is there are often important contextual details that are assumed in the narrative rather than being disclosed in the narrative. A reader in Jackson needs that context to truly understand what is happening and there is a whole line of books that goes by the title “insert name” for Dummies. So along those lines this post is Hancock County Solid Waste Authority for Dummies so everyone will understand, not just the locals.

Similarly the local paper which is written for a local audience often writes to the inside for the same reason.  For instance why disclose that local tax collector Jimmy Ladner is the Solid Waste Board’s Attorney’s Father when virtually everyone locally knows that fact?  Ladner himself prefaced his remarks on that relationship according to Lana Noonan and several other meeting attendees that spoke with Slabbed real time during the meeting.  But it is that bit of context that gets us to Dwayne’s story: Continue reading “A County Apart: Hancock Sups talk dissolving Hancock Solid Waste, gets push back from all the likely political interests”

A County Apart: The Hancock County Solid Waste Authority Budget

The HCSWA is the only local agency of its kind in Mississippi. In the other 81 Counties, the Board of Supervisors manage to handle Trash collection matters without another layer of bureaucracy and the associated extra cost to the taxpayers.

Worth noting is a mantra of the Republican party these days involves smaller government and repeating foolishness about drowning babies in the bathwater. In a County Apart, the local Republicans are making money so nary is heard the discouraging word, until now that is.

A quick perusal of the budget reveals the taxpayers are paying for code enforcement, engineering and legal services which all duplicates current county expenditures for the same services. There is more that I’m not going to reveal just yet, but to the extent certain elected officials have suggested this topic is worth of examination here on Slabbed, we are happy to oblige. Screen captures of the current Hancock County Solid Waste Authority two page budget are below the jump. Continue reading “A County Apart: The Hancock County Solid Waste Authority Budget”

A funny thing happened on the way to the proposed Medical Waste Dump in Hancock County

Those of you on the other side of the news business would be shocked to understand how much major news is brought to light by pure happenstance or in the words of Jill Abramson:

I admit that I am hopelessly hooked on the printed newspaper. I love turning the pages and the serendipity of stumbling across a piece of irresistible information or a photograph that I wasn’t necessarily intending to read.

And sometimes the stars align just right to help create some of that sweet serendipity.

Whatever the case, when I look back over the last 9 years plus doing Slabbed, some of our biggest topics came to us exactly that way. Now the Hancock County Solid Waste Authority, a governmental entity unique in Mississippi local governance, has presented itself for us. Last week Slabbed wrote about how the Les Fillingame Administration manipulated elections horse trading City jobs in exchange for a candidate leaving the Ward 6 Council race. The virulent reaction it caused among what I would term the supporting cast to the larger story was an important clue that a sore spot had been hit. What we quickly found out was the time documentation submitted by the contracted Solid Waste Enforcement Officer Tommy Kidd has been a continuing source of controversy within the Solid Waste Authority for the past 18 months. Far from being some sort of ghoul that rises from the dead every election cycle to serve as click bait as was suggested this is a prime example of a story that has been under reported.

Every instinct tells me the Hancock Solid Waste Authority is fertile ground for examination, especially after last night’s Solid Waste Authority Board meeting. Tomorrow we examine the reactions to Slabbed’s initial post, give some additional details that I purposely omitted from the first post, post Mr. Tommy’s contract for everyone to see and plus make a connection to an old story Slabbed covered several years ago.

How the Fillingame Machine Manipulates Elections…. (Updated 2X)

This morning, Lana Noonan of the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government nabbed the following work notes from County Enforcement Officer Tommy Kidd, which are attached to the minutes of Hancock County Solid Waste Authority. The promise of a job was evidently enough to get former Ward 6 GOP candidate Hunter Adam to drop out of the Ward 6 GOP race, clearing the field for Josh Desalvo in his challenge against Ward 6 incumbent Councilman Lonnie Falgout:

Source: Minutes of the Hancock County Solid Waste Authority
Source: Minutes of the Hancock County Solid Waste Authority

File this one under your county tax dollars at work for Hizzoner.

Update: Since this post was first published Lana Noonan of the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government made another trip to the solid waste authority to examine the County Enforcement Officer’s work logs. You wonder what was going through the minds of those that sit on the authority’s Board approving payment for attending Christmas parties and a Bay City Council meeting on the future of the Bay PD. Is Waveland Alderman Jeremy Burke an active member of the solid waste authority’s board or just a waste taking up space there? Same goes for Waveland Mayor Mike Smith. You gotta wonder exactly what those guys were thinking. Continue reading “How the Fillingame Machine Manipulates Elections…. (Updated 2X)”

Steppin’ out: Those “new” wards will be the death of me……

Wards 5 and 6 were annexed around 2007ish 2006ish so better late than never……

Mayor says residents’ failure to pay bills is keeping Bay behind ~ Geoff Belcher

Speaking of better late than never I also have this:

Three defendants settle out of court in Bay Tech lawsuit ~ Cassandra Favre and Geoff Belcher

Meantime back in the Bay…….

$258,000 and counting…..

Bay vows to pay overdue utility bill ~ Dwayne Bremer

Meantime over on the Bay Tech Building beat we have a tentative trial date (click the picture to nab the full pdf file containing the order):

Magnolia Group v O'Dwyer et al Doc 34

Guest Post: Hancock County Alliance for Good Government October 2013 Newsletter

HANCOCK COUNTY ALLIANCE FOR GOOD GOVERNMENT OCTOBER 2013 NEWSLETTER

For those of you familiar with the Broadway musical, “Cabaret” the local, state, and national news is beginning to sound like a refrain from one of the shows numbers: “Money.” This past month has been a numbers game for those of us studying all of the figures.

For example there are $259,955 in delinquent utility bills in Bay St. Louis. Seven of these delinquent accounts were city employees until we published the list, then one paid. Shedding light can sometimes have positive results.

There is $187,000 delinquent utility bills in Waveland which includes a former Police Chief and Mayor. We hope these accounts can be cleaned up so the rest of us don’t have to continue to carry the burden because many on these lists are more than able to pay. And, it is only going to get worse now that both cities have increased rates. For those who just will not pay, there is a remedy, if our public officials will use it, and that’s cutting them off. They sure wouldn’t get by with this with Miss. Power, Coast Electric, or Cable TV. To review the complete lists of delinquent accounts go to Slabbed.org.

Thousands of parcels of property in Hancock County have been abandoned by the owners which results in a loss of ad valorem taxes when they are returned to the state. The latest hit to the ad valorem tax base in the county is the new formula for assessing taxes on the Section 42 and Section 8 housing complexes. According to Jimmie Ladner, this loss could fall in the laps of the rest of us to make up the difference. We may not like the news, but at least Jimmie will always tell it like it is. Continue reading “Guest Post: Hancock County Alliance for Good Government October 2013 Newsletter”