District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard said he is developing a new plan to keep the county lake under local control and re-open it for area residents.
Howard said he is optimistic his plan not only will keep the lake in county control for years to come, but will also add tourist-attracting amenities. He said he will unveil his plan — one that will not cause a tax increase — in an upcoming Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors meeting.
“It’s just a shame that the county lake was built by county residents, and now county residents are kept out of their own lake,” he said. “We have to find a way to alleviate the problem and ensure Oktibbeha County residents have full control of their lake now and in the future.”
The lake’s former lease holders, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, began transitioning the 16th section property back to the Oktibbeha County School District in April after MDWFP declined to renew its land option. MDWFP previously was entered into a 25-year lease which mandated a minimum yearly payment of approximately $2,500. A reappraisal mandated by the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office increased the 407-acre property’s price to approximately $100 per acre.
Numerous deadlines for lease proposals were set by the county school board, but OCSD failed to receive a bid which met minimum property and legal specifications. The most recent bid, a $25,000-per-year bid from former Mississippi State University basketball coach Rick Stansbury and John Barnett, was rejected by the OCSD board Aug. 7. As of last week, county officials say they are leaving the bid window open until the school district receives a legitimate offer.
Public access to Oktibbeha County Lake was restricted after the property was returned due to liability issues. Officials padlocked entrance gates and campground property doors shortly after MDWFP vacated the grounds.
In June, Howard presented a plan which would take approximately $85,000 to regain control of Oktibbeha County Lake. Out of that figure, the county would set aside $40,700 for lease payments annually, while a full-time employee to manage the property would be hired for $43,680.
To fund the takeover, the county would collect fishing, boating, camping and facility rental fees while relocating funding from within its own operating budget.
Howard declined to compare his working plan with the previously presented plan, saying full details will be available at a future board meeting.