Levee Board plans to file records publicly

Board attorney Allen says MDAH still must be contacted about specifics regarding the records

The Rankin-Hinds Levee Board will begin complying with rules requiring state agencies to file records with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH), according to the board’s attorney and the Department.

Board attorney Trudy Allen told the Levee Board at a public meeting April 12 that the MDAH had asked the attorney general for an opinion on whether the Board was a state agency.

In addition to filing records with MDAH, a state agency must have its budget approved by the state Legislature and submit its employees to state personnel board oversight.

Allen said at the meeting that she believed the attorney general would definitely find that the Levee Board is a state agency.

Later that day, MDAH withdrew its request for an attorney general opinion.

We said we will comply with records requirements for state agencies even though we are not a state agency, Allen said at a May 10 Board meeting.

MDAH director Hank Holmes said the Board was “very agreeable” to the idea of submitting records, and both parties thought cooperating would be “simpler all the way around” than trying to classify the entity.

Allen told the Mississippi Business Journal that she has plans to call MDAH and set up a time to meet with its committee to discuss what records the Board will file. Holmes said there was no time deadline established for the parties to meet, and recent state budget cuts are slowing down a lot of processes. Holmes said compliance can be retroactive depending on record types.

Board history

For years the Levee Board — technically the Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District — has existed without a phone number or website and has spent tax dollars without much scrutiny. The Board meets the second Monday of every month at Flowood City Hall.

The board has drawn attention to itself in recent months as controversy over the Army Corps of Engineers plan for Pearl River flood control and an alternative — private developer John McGowan’s Two Lakes plan.

The Corps has said it is only interested in approving a flood control plan that uses levees. Some Board members want a plan that includes one or two lakes, which would solve flood issues and also provide economic development opportunities with waterfront property. Mississippi Engineering Group has proposed a Lower Lake Plan.

The Board comprises Pearl Mayor Brad Rogers, Flowood Mayor Gary Rhoads, Richland Mayor Mark Scarborough, Billy Orr, Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson, Leland Speed and Socrates Garrett.

The board was created by an order of Rankin County Chancery Court May 1962, after the court was petitioned by the City of Flowood. The entity operates within the provisions of the 1962 Senate Bill 1563, called the Urban Flood and Drainage Control Act.

The board has eminent domain authority as well as the ability to issue bonds and assess taxes to cover its operating costs and activities.

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