Laurel Courthouse

The Jones County Board of Supervisors gave its seal of approval to several organizations that are improving the lives and meeting the needs of the citizens of Jones County.

During the July 18 Board of Supervisors meeting in Laurel, board members voted to sign a resolution authorizing Restore Jones County and Glory House Global Outreach to prepare and apply for the 2021 Affordable Housing Program (AHP) through the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas. Laura Sappington, a case manager at Restore Jones County, told supervisors authorization from the board is needed to apply for a grant that will be used to assist county residents whose homes after tornadoes hit the area within months of each other.

An EF-3 tornado hit Laurel in December 2019 damaging 135 structures, including homes and business. Additionally, an EF-4 wreaked havoc on parts on Jones County in April of 2020, devastating the town of Soso.

“These tornadoes destroyed the homes of several families in the area,” said Sappington. “Several families lost everything.”

Restore Jones County, a subsidiary of The Glory House in Laurel, was created in response to the tornadoes. Founded by Grant and Hope Staples, The Glory House offers various services and ministry facets for people who desire to serve others, as well as those in need of love and caring.

Restore Jones County, with the assistance of Glory House Global Outreach, is showing love and care to Jones County residents as they rebuild, or repair homes damaged by the storms. Sappington said the organizations have completed 22 homes and have 13 homes left to do.

“We hope to build six homes starting in December,” said Sappington.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sappington said the cost of rebuilding a home was a $35,000. Today the cost has increased to about $70,000.

“We are applying for a $60,000 grant that will help us with some of the expenses, but additional funding is needed,” added Sappington.

Board President Johnny Burnett of Beat One asked Sappington if she was requesting funds from the board of supervisors. “No sir,” she stated, “We just need your signature on a resolution we will present with our application. We are in the process of raising additional funds.”

Sappington said since the project will serve residents of both Jones County and the City of Laurel, Restore Jones County is required to include resolutions from each stating that they support the project. Restore Jones County and Glory House Global Outreach will be listed on the application as project sponsors. Sappington explained that the project sponsor must submit the application through a stockholder institution of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas. Bancorp South will serve as the stockholder institution for the project.

The board of supervisors also granted the Laurel-Jones County Library permission to establish wi-fi hotspots at all county community centers. Supervisor Johnny Burnett’s Beat 1 has three centers; Supervisor Larry Dykes’ Beat 2 and Supervisor Phil Dickerson’s Beat 3 have nine centers each; Supervisor David Scruggs’ Beat 4 has 11 centers; and Supervisor Travares Comegys’ Beat 5 has 4 centers.

Library Director Karyn Walsh said the hotspots will be funded by the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF).

“Congress authorized the Emergency Connectivity Fund as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021,” explained Walsh. “The federal government has allocated $7.17 billion program which help schools and libraries provide the tools and services their communities need for remote learning during the COVID-19 emergency period.”

Walsh said the service will help close the Homework Gap for students who lack Internet access or the devices they need to connect to school classrooms. For eligible schools and libraries, the ECF Program will cover reasonable costs of laptop and tablet computers; Wi-Fi hotspots; modems; routers; and broadband connectivity purchases for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons.

“All these students or their parents have to do is drive to the parking lots of these centers to gain access to the Internet,” said Walsh. “We will work with C Spire Wireless to provide this service to the citizens of Jones County.

In other business, the board commended Mona Gautier and Pine Belt Mental Health for the service rendered to what is often a “forgotten population.” “You provide a lot of services and help to a lot of people, and we thank you,” said Burnett. “You are greatly appreciated.”