June 29, 2009 Rotogram

CHANGING THE GUARD

President Chip gives his state of the Club address and passes the gavel to incoming president Martha Wells today.

LAST WEEK

Invocation and Pledge: Brian Portera
Attendance: There were 128 members present and 71 absent.
Guests and visitors: Visiting Rotarian was Bill Overstreet from West Point. Members’ guests included John Guyton of Dad Mark, Ben Carver of Frank Chiles, and Mandy High and Katie Stepp of Jody Ray. John Robert Arnold hosted members of the MSU 1943 Advanced ROTC class and family members including Elwin Palmer from Ft. Washington, Penn., Mark Gordon Hazzard from West Point, Frank Gwin from Tchula, Warren Oakley from Oktoc, and Debbie and James Palmer and Amy Thompson from Dekalb. Guests of the Club were Bill Maxey, Josh Gregory, Jon Kahlar, Larry Conn and Randy Ginn of the speaker’s staff; Becky Wilkes; Paul Sims, Starkville Daily News; and Tim Pratt, Starkville Dispatch.
Makeups reported: Keith Remy in Waverly, Iowa, and John Simpson in West Point..
District Report: Past District Governor Stu Vance reported on the recent College of Governors attended by himself, PDG Jack Forbus and Assistant DG Larry Mullins. PDG Bill Foster was not able to attend.
Both Joel Clements of Waynesboro, outgoing DG, and Chuck Jordan of Greenville, incoming DG, are MSU alumni.
Roscoe Green from Brandon and Bob Graves from Winona are next in line to lead the district.
Reflecting the world economy, Rotary International membership is down 5 percent. District membership is down one percent.
Next year, the district will sponsor two instead of one Ambassadorial Scholars. Stu encouraged members to recommend nominees to our committee headed by Dave Breaux.
A district water project in Africa is proceeding well.
Next year’s district conference in concert with district 6800 is a cruise to Cozumel, Mexico. Cost is $1,000 per couple. Forty-eight couples already are signed up.
Incoming College of Governors President Jack Forbus reported our Club’s receipt of the first annual Ruth and Keith Remy District Youth Affairs Award for the breadth and depth of our youth programs.
Community support: President Chip presented Becky Wilkes, executive director of the Oktibbeha County Chapter of the American Red Cross with a support check for $1,000. Wilkes noted that the economic downturn has put the local unit in the red by about $7,000. She also recognized the many Rotarians who have served on the local Red Cross board.
Chip also noted that our annual $3,000 Excellence in Education scholarship funds have been remitted to Mississippi State. The university will name three area students to receive $1,000 grants.

KEEPING THE PUBLIC SAFE

Mississippi’s Commissioner of Public Safety assured listeners that expected state budget cuts of 5 to 8 percent would not come at the expense of citizens’ security.
“The important thing is we don’t anticipate taking enforcement off the road,” said Stephen Simpson.
The current fiscal year’s cutbacks in commodities and contractual services will continue to account for at least a 5 percent cut.
Simpson heads the branch of state government that oversees a number of agencies including the Mississippi Highway Patrol, Homeland Security, Bureau of Narcotics, and the Mississippi Crime Lab.
Other units and sub-units include Motor Carrier Safety, the Medical Examiner’s office, Crime Stoppers, Public Safety Planning, Law Enforcement Officer’s Training Academy, Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Office of Administrative Operations.
Public safety employees range in number from 1,300 to 1,400 with a budget of about $190 million. The majority of the department’s funds come from fees and charges. About $72 million come from appropriated general funds.
Simpson stressed that no operating funds come from traffic tickets. All of that revenue goes to counties.
In office for just over a year, the commissioner noted an early concern about staff retirement attrition in the midst of budget restrictions. More than 175 staff members are eligible to retire with more than 25 years’ service. However, only about 40 are actually leaving.
More than half of the public safety force is in the highway patrol. There are more than 400 “road troopers” ensuring highway safety.
State troopers’ cars are their rolling offices; and, about 200 must be replaced annually. The gas price spike of 2008 hit the fleet particularly hard resulting in $1.3 million of unanticipated expenses
Driver services offices account for the remaining 200-plus MHP staff. Improved driver’s license services are high on Simpson’s agenda.
He hopes to double the number of stations to 101 and move significant amounts of service online. A license renewal system though kiosks is in development.
Citing his experience as a parent, the commissioner expressed the need to improve young drivers’ license renewal processes.  Students who have an intermediate license or permit must renew every year with proof of school enrollment.
To streamline the effort, his office has asked the Department of Education “to tell us who has dropped out.” Those drivers get their licenses suspended automatically.
The existing state Crime Lab in Jackson was built to house 25 scientists in 26,000-square-feet in 1976. Today, more than 70 scientists work in the same space.
The legislature has appropriated $12 million for site acquisition and construction of a new facility in Rankin County. Simpson hopes to complete the new, 90,000-square-foot facility over the next couple of years for around $30 million.
The Bureau of Narcotics employs 165 agents in an evolving “war on drugs.”
Simpson said that today’s trend is toward prescription drug abuse, especially among youth. He cautioned parents and grandparents to keep a close watch on the household inventory of pain-killers and other drugs.
His closing admonition was “Wear your seatbelt and stay sober.”

Previous post:

Next post: