By NATHAN GREGORY
Lease options regarding the county’s portion of Oktibbeha County Lake and a resolution to support consolidation of Starkville and Oktibbeha County schools will be two discussion topics in today’s board of supervisors meeting, officials say.
The 5:30 p.m. meeting will be held at the Oktibbeha County Courthouse.
Last November, the Oktibbeha County School District signed a 25-year lease agreement with John Barnett and Rick Stansbury for its 312-acre portion of the lake for $31,290.25 annually.
District 1 Supervisor and county board vice president John Montgomery said Oktibbeha County Administrator Don Posey was authorized at a recent board meeting to seek Barnett and Stansbury and gauge their interest on leasing on the county’s 95-acre portion of the property. Board president and District 3 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said the board will likely ask for clarification on the lease and decide what to do next.
“I know we had a strong desire to perhaps engage in a lease with them but at the same time we were somewhat unsure about the conditions of the lease. We’ll bring it back up for discussion and see if the board wants to move forward or delay action on it,” Trainer said. “Which way the board will lean, I really can’t say, because there will probably be some discussion and some interesting … points will be brought out. I’ve had a lot of citizen inquiry about it as far as the status of the lake. I think probably that’s going to be a heavy factor in whichever direction we decide to go and … what would be good for the public and good for the county.”
Last year, the school district and supervisors issued requests for proposals for leases no less than $40,700 per year for the total 407 acres of lake and campground land at the demands of the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office. The price came from a re-appraisal that set the land’s value at approximately $100 per acre. The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks then vacated its long-standing, $2,500-per-year lease for the entire acreage.
Last Tuesday, District 3 Supervisor Marvel Howard called a meeting to gather citizen input and use it to draft a resolution on consolidation for State Rep. Tyrone Ellis to bring forward in Jackson. Since the meeting, the Miss. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill in support of forced consolidation of the Starkville and Oktibbeha County school districts by a 107-6 vote.
Trainer said he will call for the board to engage in a positive campaign to highlight the benefits of consolidation during the meeting.
“What I want to do is get the board to get a majority vote to pass a resolution to support consolidation in Starkville and Oktibbeha County and get some positive press behind the benefits of what it could bring to the citizens of Starkville and Oktibbeha County. There’s been a lot of negative things that have been printed in the paper and … a lot of it is coming from (SSD) Superintendent (Lewis Holloway). When I say negative I wouldn’t say extremely negative, but ... I think a lot of people have gotten some bad vibes off some of the things that they’ve seen and read,” Trainer said. “I think it’s time for us to do a positive campaign and come out and support this thing so it can continue to move as swiftly as it is and have the same type of traction in the Senate. I think all of (the board members) realize how this has an impact on the quality of life (and) community development … so we need to be involved in it because of the benefits it could bring to our county. I think the benefits outweigh any negatives out there.”
Also up for discussion will be consideration of purchasing several new haul and dump trucks for the county to upgrade its aging fleet. Trainer said the board will discuss bids on purchasing the new trucks and replacing some outdated equipment.
“We’ve got several trucks that have substantial amounts of miles on them so we feel like it’s in the best interest of the county to go ahead and look at replacing those old trucks, getting some new ones and taking the old ones to the market and recouping some of our money on them, that way it will help defray some of the costs,” Trainer said. “One of the things that would help us out on is maintenance costs and things of that nature. Each year we have an amount that is fixed in our budget and so that amount … will allow us to make payments for whatever we have to borrow, which would be the balance of what we would pay for the new ones minus what we get from the old ones. We’ll have a little money already built in our budget that would help us to service a note for maybe 36 months and that way we won’t have to drain all that money out of the coffers.”