OKTIBBEHA COUNTY — District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller’s attempt to change a board order related to the Oktibbeha County Lake dam after it was approved drew a public call for her to step down as board president.
Less than five minutes into Monday evening’s board of supervisors meeting, District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard asked Miller, who was attending the meeting by phone, to relinquish the president’s role.
“There is an item in our packet of an obvious attempt of the board president to change a board order without majority consent from the board. I think it needs to be addressed,” Howard said. “Also, by her own admission, in an email she sent today, this is not the first time that she has done this. And from reading the email she sent, it seems she has changed board orders in the past without majority consent. … I think it’s such a serious action that she should step down as board president.”
Miller refused, not even responding to Howard’s allegations during the public session, and no action was taken on the matter.
As president, Miller is responsible for signing orders approved by the board. When signing board orders from the June 6 meeting, she questioned one related to a board vote to request proposals for decommissioning the lake dam. The board voted 4-1, with District 2’s Orlando Trainer opposed, to seek those proposals while also allowing Mississippi Engineering Group to continue design work for fixing the dam.
Miller attempted to amend the board order to exclude MEG, parent company of Pickering Engineering, from receiving a request for proposals for decommissioning work. The county has contracted with MEG/Pickering for design work to fix the dam and has agreed to pay the firm nearly $500,000 for that work.
MEG’s initial estimate for fixing the dam is $15 million to $17 million. The county originally intended to use local and state American Rescue Plan Act funds for the project, but after final rules for the federal funding revealed that was likely not allowed, the board is now researching the cheaper option to decommission the lake.
At the June 6 meeting, Miller did say multiple times she wished to bring in another firm and encourage “competition.” She refused Trainer’s amendment to her motion, which would have allowed MEG to be the sole firm charged with figuring out the cost of decommissioning the lake.
“The motion was not to use the current group (MEG),” Miller said in text messages to Board Attorney Rob Roberson, shared with The Dispatch by Miller. “I think the order needs to reflect that.”
According to Howard, her attempts to change the board order were refused by County Administrator Delois Farmer and Roberson because they had no notes on excluding MEG or any firm.
Documents show that Miller was informed that the order would need to be corrected in an open meeting. Instead, supervisors on Monday voted clearly to allow RFQs for decommissioning the lake to be sent to “any and all businesses.” Miller ultimately voted for that measure, as well, making it unanimous.
The dam has been a contentious issue with the board since January 2020, when County Engineer Clyde Pritchard reported it was in imminent danger of breaching. Pritchard initially told the county fixing the dam to Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality standards would cost about $8 million, roughly half of MEG’s current estimate for the work.
The issue is particularly contentious between Miller, who wants to decommission the dam, and Howard, who lives near the lake.
After the meeting, Miller told The Dispatch she felt “singled-out” by Howard. She said she has no intention of stepping down as board president.
“This is not the first time I have experienced Supervisor Howard’s verbal abuse,” she said. “As the only woman on the board, it is obvious how he singles me out.”
Howard said he believes Miller was trying to use the president’s position to force a particular outcome.
“It’s just another ploy to try and stack the deck and get somebody to say what it is she wants them to say,” Howard said to The Dispatch. “If she gets the outcome she wants, that’s fine. But don’t do this type of stuff.”
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