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Board split over sale of equipment

MONTICELLO — Blind trust among Lawrence County supervisors tooka heavy hit this week with the questionable sale of some District 1equipment.

Some citizens question District 1 Supervisor Carey Hedgepeth’smotive in selling four pieces of major equipment, noting that helost the Democratic primary election Aug. 5.

Board members, however, are split on why Hedgepeth is sellingthe equipment. Some refuse to comment on his reasons while otherssay it was surplus equipment.

Several telephone calls to Hedgepeth’s home and office were notreturned.

Hedgepeth requested permission to sell the equipment during aboard meeting earlier this month and received approval from theboard, which did not have a list of the equipment at that time,said District 4 Supervisor Glen Grubbs.

It is a routine matter during the board meetings for eachdistrict’s supervisor to request permission from the board to sellworn out or unserviceable equipment, if they have any. The boardgenerally approves the request, trusting that each supervisor knowsthe needs of his district best, Grubbs said.

That trust was put in question when the board discovered laterexactly what equipment was to be sold and that the equipment isserviceable.

“No one has ever had equipment on there that was serviceablesince I’ve been here,” Grubbs said. “We just took for granted itwas junk or something he didn’t need anymore.”

District 2 Supervisor Billy Joe Boutwell agreed.

“It’s always been done on good faith,” he said. “None of usthought anything about (checking the list).”

During 12 years in office, Boutwell said he has never seenserviceable equipment listed for sale, unless the supervisor wasupgrading.

At issue are the District 1 supervisor’s pickup, a track hoe,bulldozer and a Caterpillar tractor. Supervisors could not estimatea dollar value on the equipment without consulting themanufacturers.

“As far as I know, there isn’t anything wrong with them,”Boutwell said.

Grubbs and Boutwell attempted to prevent the sale of the trackhoe, bulldozer and tractor during a meeting of the board Wednesday,but were unsuccessful. District 3 Supervisor Calvin Rutland andDistrict 5 Supervisor Calvin Fortenberry, who retired and will alsonot be returning the board next year, voted against rescinding thesales order. Hedgepeth was not present at the meeting.

Boutwell said he voted to rescind the sales order for severalreasons.

“I was scared there might be some liability on our part. Ididn’t want the county to pay more for more equipment, and I didn’tthink it was right to the new supervisor coming in,” he said. “Ididn’t see any reason for (selling that equipment) at thisparticular time.”

District 3 Supervisor Calvin Rutland said he opposed rescindingthe sales order because it was Hedgepeth’s decision to make.

“All (Hedgepeth) told us was that he had some surplus equipmentto sell,” Rutland said. “That was his call to sell it. We weren’taware of what all was going to be sold, but we approved it. Careyreally didn’t need it, you can look at his roads and see that. Thatwas his decision and he’s still the supervisor until Jan. 1.”

The construction equipment will be sold Sunday during an auctionin Hattiesburg.

The two-year-old pickup, with 54,000 miles on it, was sold atthe same auction house Sept. 7 for $13,000. The value of the truckhas been estimated at $22,000-23,000, which is about what thecounty paid for the truck, Grubbs said.

Grubbs said in his nearly eight years in office he has had twocounty trucks. He bought one his first year in office and kept itfor six years. When he purchased his present truck last year, thefirst truck became a service truck for county workers.

Since the equipment was sold with the board’s approval, the saleof the pickup and upcoming sale of the equipment is legal, Grubbssaid.

“It can be stopped, but no one will change their vote,” hesaid.

Rutland said it is not unusual for supervisors to sell equipmentthey no longer need.

“I’m probably going to sell the bulldozer I have before the endof the year. I don’t have much use for it,” he said.

Rutland admitted, however, that with a new supervisor takingover the district in January he probably would have held off andlet him make the decision. He added, however, that District 1Supervisor-elect Steve Garrett still has all the equipment he needsto perform his duties when he takes office.

Garrett disagreed, saying the sale will certainly affect himwhen he takes office in January.

“It’s going to affect me, no doubt, because I will have toreplace that equipment,” he said. “I’m afraid it will end upcosting the county extra money. We’re supposed to be stewards ofthe county’s money, and I don’t think we’re good stewards when wedo something like this.”

Garrett did not blame the supervisors in other districts for theloss.

“They got kind of fooled into this,” he said. “I’ve been assuredit won’t happen again. I understand how it happened. I’m justconcerned about why (Hedgepeth) would do something like this.”

Grubbs and Boutwell said they were fielding numerous calls fromconcerned citizens Thursday asking for more details on thesale.

“There are a lot of people in this county who are very concernedabout what happened,” Garrett said.

Rutland said he has not received one call about the sale.

Fortenberry, the board president, was unavailable forcomment.