Drainage top concern in District 1
SAMPLING THE CANDIDATES Hank Florey, Lauderdale County's District 1 supervisor, looks over campaign handouts from each of the five candidates running for his seat in the Aug. 5 Republican primary. Florey, who has served two terms as supervisor, is not seeking re-election. Photo by Kyle Carter/The Meridian Star
By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
July 21, 2003
Jimmy Rawson of Lauderdale County once picked cotton where his home now stands at the intersection of Chapel Road and Ponta Hills Road.
Rawson has lived in the Briarwood community all of his 60 years. The retired railroad worker and voter is not shy about discussing district matters with his county supervisor.
But with the party primaries for county elections a little more than two weeks away, Rawson said he has yet to see any of the candidates for District 1 county supervisor discuss issues.
Five Republicans will meet in the Aug. 5 GOP primary for District 1 county supervisor: Sidney Covington, Eddie D. Harper, Jerry P. Marlow, Billy Wayne "Bill" McBride and David Pritchett.
The winner will replace outgoing Supervisor Hank Florey, who will step down at the end of his term in January.
Because no Democrats, independents or third party candidates are running for the job, the winner of the GOP primary automatically will win the post and take office in January.
Rawson, as well as other District 1 constituents, see the Republican primary as little more than a popularity contest at the moment because of the absence of debate on specific issues.
Florey agreed: "There are not a lot of hot issues in District 1 right now. A lot of people are asking for my opinion on who to vote for. There are a lot of undecided people out there."
Florey said he will remain neutral for the Aug. 5 vote. But he said he may endorse a candidate if no one receives more than 50 percent of the vote and the top two candidates advance to an Aug. 26 runoff.
The area of Lauderdale County where Rawson lives is an area that will receive a lot of attention from whoever becomes supervisor. The problem there is simple: drainage.
In separate interviews, Covington, Harper, Marlow and McBride stressed the need for economic development and no tax increase. Pritchett did not return phones calls seeking an interview.
Candidates did not mention flood prevention as an issue until they were asked about it.
Harper lives in the Bailey community, but he said he has done a lot of work through his electrical business in the Briarwood community where drainage problems fester.
He added that there is no accountability as to where developments are being built and he proposes a study be done to find a solution among supervisors, engineers, the Mississippi Department of Transportation and other entities.
McBride is a Meridian resident who said the district had drainage problems long before the April flash floods.
He said once all infrastructure is made the top priority, including drainage ditches and roads, economic development will follow.
Covington, also a Meridian resident, said the formation of drainage districts has been studied before and that it should be looked at again.
Marlow lives in the northeastern part of the district on Old Country Club Road.
Dean Toth, who lives near the Briarwood area on VanZyverden Road, said he just wants to see whoever is elected solve the county's drainage problems.
A ditch behind Toth's home either overflows into his backyard or stays stagnant, something he said creates a a health hazard and a breeding oasis for mosquitoes. He said he has even seen diamondback rattle snakes and water moccasins there.
Calls to the county have been answered; he's talked with Florey and had the county engineer visit his property. But the problems are still there.
Florey said the county lacked coordination with the creation of new subdivisions. He said the issue may require an overall drainage program for the entire county and not just one district.
Whatever happens, Florey said drainage problems will be a major issue for his successor.