By Alyssa Schnugg
While Lafayette County’s population has increased over recent years and shows little signs of slowing down, so does the number of people who leave – permanently.
On Wednesday during a budget hearing, Lafayette County Coroner Rocky Kennedy told the Board of Supervisors that he expects the number of calls he and his deputy coroner respond to each year to surpass 500 in 2020 and continue to climb over the next several years.
“I suspect we’ll be responding to 75 to 100 calls a month in the next five to 10 years,” he said.
Kennedy’s salary is $900 a month plus $175 per call, which is anticipated to equal about $115,000 in 2020. The price per call was increased this year from $125 after a Senate Bill 2827 was passed and signed by Gov. Phil Bryant during this year’s State Legislature session.
Part of the increase is due to the expansion of Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi after building its $300 million regional hospital.
“We get folks from out of the county who live in surrounding areas at the hospital,” he said. “So emergency room deaths are up. Nursing home deaths are up.”
While Kennedy said most of his calls are for people who have died from natural causes, he also expects to see drug overdose deaths climb.
“People who were addicted to pain medications and now have a hard time getting those pills are turning to drugs like heroin, which is cheaper and easier to get,” he said. “But they don’t know what they’re getting when they buy it. The more we grow, the more unnatural deaths we will see here in Lafayette County.”
Supervisor David Rikard asked Kennedy how many deaths of University of Mississippi students he responds to each year.
“It’s about eight to 10 students a year,” Kennedy said without having actual data in front of him. “It’s mostly suicide, drug overdoses and accidents.”
Kennedy presented his fiscal year 2019-2020 $266,621 budget Wednesday, up from this year’s $218,658 budget.
The Board of Supervisors has been meeting with department heads since the beginning of July to review budgets before voting to approve the entire budget in September.
Also presenting budgets Wednesday was the Building Department with a $244,136 budget, up from this year’s $232,640.
Building Official Joel Hollowell said permit fees were down $24,000 this year, mostly due to the city annexing 11-square miles of county property in October 2018.
“Last year we issued 54 permits for commercial buildings and this year so far we’ve issued 11,” he said.
Hollowell requested the Supervisors consider hiring a planner for the city.
“I’m spending a majority of my time in my office reviewing applications (for permits),” he said.
The supervisors agreed to allow supervisors Kevin Frye and Chad McLarty and County Administrator Lisa Carwyle work with Hollowell to come up with a job description and duties for a future planner to present back to the board for consideration.
Other budgets presented Wednesday for review included:
*Planning Commission at $143,853 (that includes a salary for the future planner position)
*Buildings and Grounds at $923,158
*Library Administration at $98,500