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Red Cross to open Monticello relief center

An American Red Cross center will open in the old KellwoodBuilding in Monticello.

The center is tentatively scheduled to open Thursday and remainin place for at least 30 days, said Billy Joe Boutwell, presidentof the Lawrence County Board of Supervisors.

“I never did get a hundred percent guarantee, but they’resetting up 120 or so desks and computers in there now, so I wouldsay it’s coming,” Boutwell said.

Additional power was being supplied to the building today, whileother preparations were also being made. Power difficulties at thefacility could delay its opening until Friday or early next week,officials said.

Boutwell and Lawrence County Sheriff Joel Thames said theMonticello center is planned as a regional facility with the goalor serving 5,000 people a day.

“I’ve been coordinating since yesterday to get enough security,”Thames said.

Officers with local law enforcement agencies, including theMississippi Highway Patrol and Department of Wildlife, Fisheriesand Parks, will be joined by members of the Army NationalGuard.

“We’re going to control it,” Boutwell said. “We have enough lawand National Guardsmen lined up to be sure of that.”

In an attempt to avoid some problems that have occurred in othercities, Thames said officials already have determined a route forthe line that will develop as people from Lawrence County and thesurrounding area flock to the building to make their claims.

The line will begin along the northbound shoulder of Highway 27,turn onto the westbound shoulder of Highway 84, continue onto MasonStreet and enter Kellwood’s west gate. The fenced facility’s eastgate, back onto Highway 84, will be used as the exit.

“Hopefully, doing it this way we’ll avoid major congestionblocking the highways and downtown,” Thames said. “It was the mostfeasible and safest route we can use.”

Neither Boutwell nor Thames knew which of several systems beingemployed by the American Red Cross in other cities would be usedhere but indicated that people would go through the entire processat one time. At other locations, people were given tickets with anappointment time to return.

“We’re supposed to get with them today to see how they’re goingto handle it,” Thames said.

While stressing patience, Boutwell said officials will do whatthey can to make the wait as “comfortable as possible.”

Portable toilets will be placed along the line, and workers willattempt to provide water, he said.