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By CARL SMITH
Supervisors expressed their desire to keep the Oktibbeha County Lake as a functioning, public arena Monday during a work session with the Oktibbeha County School District Board of Trustees.
Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks vacated its facilities located at the lakeâ€™s campground area last month after the agency did not renew its 16th section recreational land lease with the county school board following a reappraisal of the landâ€™s value. The entire 16th sectionâ€™s 642.52 acres, including the 407 acres of lake and campground facilities involved in the MDWFP lease, were reappraised at $100 per acre, which would greatly eclipse the previous $2,500 minimum annual payment.
Mike Ainsworth, a 16th section land manager, said there is no current deadline for proposals. Once a deadline is set and met, the board can accept the highest and â€śbest-useâ€ť bid.
When Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors President Marvell Howard asked Ainsworth if an individual or group potentially could turn the area into a private lake, Ainsworth said that issue is something the board and lessee would have to work out.
â€śA written proposal will be specific (about area usage),â€ť Ainsworth said. â€śIf (a person or group) violates it, then theyâ€™re in default of the agreement and the lease is canceled.â€ť
Following the work session, District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery said the lake needs to remain open to the citizens of Oktibbeha County no matter who takes up the lease.
â€śThatâ€™s our county lake; thatâ€™s where people go to spend their weekends, fish and camp. Itâ€™s almost become a tradition in a sense,â€ť he said. â€śBottom line: It needs to be a public lake.â€ť
At the conclusion of the work session, Ainsworth said he believed only one bid has been submitted. There is no exact timetable for finding a new lease holder, he said, but the process is moving as fast as possible.
â€śThe school board needs to see proposals,â€ť he said. â€śBased on who comes forward, it needs to see who has the credentials to write the check (and assume the lease).â€ť
Local architect Robert Ford submitted a proposal to the county board of education 7:30 a.m. Monday, a time he said he believed was the deadline for submissions. Ford said constructing money-making facilities, such as a restaurant and motel with resort status, would bring extra funds to the county education system. The lake, he said, would remain open to public use.
â€śI think the county lake is for all of us â€” anyone should have access. I own property on the south side of the lake, and I sit out and drink my morning coffee while looking over it. Itâ€™s essential to make it available to everyone,â€ť he said. â€śHaving a small motel on the edge of the lake would provide a place for those who want to come in and have a nice weekend, and having resort status at a restaurant would allow you to have a glass of wine with a nice dinner.â€ť
Ford declined to comment on the price of his submitted proposal due to the ongoing nature of the process.