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Comp plan choice causes some conflict

Slaughter & Associates will be in charge of updating the county’s comprehensive plan, but their selection did not come without some disagreement among members of the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors on Monday.

After supervisor Mike Roberts made a motion to hire Slaughter & Associates and it was seconded by Chad McLarty, supervisor Kevin Frye voiced his opposition to hiring the firm based upon Slaughter’s current relationship with the city of Oxford and their potential plans for annexation, as well as not being “sophisticated enough” to handle the job.

“I think his work product is much less sophisticated than our alternative,” Frye said. “He does not employ an engineer. He does not employ an architect.”

Frye said that Slaughter also is utilizing outdated data, in particular, population information that has already surpassed the projected 2020 figures.

“Mr. Slaughter’s work is based on census data,” Frye said. “He does not employ an economist. He does not have the sophisticated people who can help us, in my opinion.

“Hiring Mr. Slaughter may be cheaper in the short term, but it’s going to cost the county more money in the long run,” Frye said. “So I’m personally opposed to hiring his firm. It’s not that I don’t like Mr. Slaughter. He’s a nice guy.”

Slaughter & Associates submitted a bid of $60,000 to update the county comprehensive plan and for an additional $10,000 to $20,000, Slaughter has indicated he could develop a zoning ordinance if the county decides to pursue zoning.

A2H had submitted a bid of $57,000 to update the comprehensive plan. In addition, the firm indicated they could create a zoning ordinance for $40,000 and an implementation plan for another $30,000. The total cost would carry a price tag of $137,000.

McLarty and Roberts both disagreed with Frye’s assessment.

“Mr. Slaughter is a civil engineer,” McLarty said. “That statement is inaccurate that he does not employ an engineer. Slaughter & Associates has done a good many comprehensive plans in the state of Mississippi. He’s more than qualified to do a good job for Lafayette County at a cost savings, if the zoning aspect is put into it, of $57,000. I think A2H and Clarion are a great group, but I also think you’re paying an extra $57,000 for the horse and pony show.”

No conflict

Board President Jeff Busby also said the county did look into Slaughter representing the city in potential annexation.

“We talked to the city’s attorneys, as well as (county attorney) David O’Donnell and he sent back opinions, and all opinions said there was no conflict what so ever,” Busby said. “I don’t want that to be out there because it’s a scare tactic that’s not relevant.”

Frye said he understands that there is no conflict with Slaughter as long as the county does not oppose annexation. He said he’s not sure if he would oppose annexation or not because he has not reviewed all of the city’s plans since they have not been completed.

“I think he’s capable of doing both, but in my opinion we’d be better off with a separate person,” Frye said.

Roberts said he’s trying to deal in facts rather than speculation.

“If he’s representing us as well as the city, then we have some sort of insight as they do of what the anticipation of annexation or their plan would be as we move forward with a plan to address those at the same time to make it a more sound and solid plan not for five years or 10 years, but for what we’re trying to do for a long term range.”

Policy and procedures

The comprehensive plan wasn’t the only matter that came up with opposition. The board discussed adopting updated board policy and procedures as outlined by O’Donnell. Frye wanted a sentence added back into the new policy where an ordinary resident could request being placed on the agenda by contacting the county administrator without being sponsored by a supervisor or a county department head. The previous policy included that provision.

“I’m concerned it limits opportunities for members of the public to come before the board,” Frye said.

Busby explained that the public contacts the county administrator who notifies the supervisor for that district to sponsor the item on the agenda.

“I could imagine someone wanting to put something on the agenda and none of us wanting to sponsor it,” Frye said.

The new version indicates the county administrator could or could not place an item on agenda, whereas the previous policy said the county administrator had to place an item on the agenda.

O’Donnell said the board wants to limit items to matters that are relevant to county business. Roberts agreed.

“If there’s an item the board feels like is frivolous and we don’t need to discuss, then if we don’t want to put it on (the agenda) then they don’t have the right to put it on,” Roberts said.

Frye made a motion to approve the policy and procedure with the addition of a sentence explaining the procedure by which the public requests to be on the agenda. The request can still be denied and does not necessarily have to be granted.

All members agreed to the policy with the exception of Roberts.

One item added in the policy and procedure would limit comments from supervisors or the public to two minutes in duration. Busby wanted to make clear that people would not be cut off after two minutes during discussion.

“To clarify, if we’re in the middle of discussion we’re not going to cut somebody off at exactly two minutes,” Busby said. “I anticipate a lot of public input on the comprehensive plan. I don’t think anyone is going to have a timer up here.”