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City settles Brickfire grant dispute with state agency

October 20, 2012


In business unrelated to the Douglas McArthur Drive gate or consideration of a tri-county economic development agreement, the Starkville Board of Aldermen voted 6-1 to approve a memorandum of understanding with the Brickfire Project for the repayment of funds to the city from a Mississippi Department of Human Services childcare grant audit finding.

The board also appointed Chief Administrative Officer Lynn Spruill to replace former City Planner Ben Griffith on an interim basis while the board conducts a search for his replacement.

The Brickfire project, a non-profit organization that works with the city to obtain grant funds for providing child care services, is a sub-grantee for MDHS. Starkville provides the organization $5,000 annually to assist in its work. In the board’s e-packet, the memorandum states that a dispute arose between MDHS and Starkville concerning the project’s “administration, management and accounting” of funds from two grants. MDHS contested the project’s allocation and accounting of the money it received through the grants. The misappropriated funds add up to $7,699.24.

In order to settle the shortfall, the city has agreed to pay MDHS $7,699.24 over the course of 35 monthly installments of $213.86 and one monthly installment of $214.14. The Brickfire Project will have to reimburse the city by making five monthly payments of $1,000 to the city during this fiscal year. In the next fiscal year, the city will pay the remainder of the balance by allocating $2,699.24 of what it would normally give to the Brickfire Project to MDHS.

If the project misses a payment, their monthly grant disbursements from MDHS will be withheld. The organization is directly dependent on Starkville’s finance department to make grant disbursements.

City Attorney Chris Latimer said in his research MDHS concluded there was a failure to itemize how the project was spending its funds from those two grants.

City planner search begins
Former planner Griffith concluded his six-year term this week and has accepted a similar position in the Quad Cities area near the state boundaries of Iowa and Illinois.

Ward 2 Alderman and Vice Mayor Sandra Sistrunk said given the amount of responsibility the city planner takes on and the fact that Spruill will assume those duties along with her current obligations, the board needs to movie quickly in advertising for qualified candidates to fill Griffith’s position permanently.

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