By CARL SMITH
Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors Vice President Orlando Trainer says it’s time the county looks outside the box for ideas and funding to facilitate economic and community development, road work and recreational opportunities.
Trainer is scheduled to discuss a possible bond issue with the county’s other four supervisors during the board’s 5:30 p.m. meeting today at the county courthouse.
Supervisors, Trainer said, typically lack funding options to do district-specific projects. Having flexible sources of funding for supervisors would allow representatives to accomplish area-specific projects which fit their district’s characteristics and needs, he said, and, in turn, benefit the county.
“One of the things we as elected officials face is that you never have funds dedicated specifically toward doing what you want to do — everything is board-driven. Each supervisor needs to have some funds at their discretion that could benefit the county as a whole but would be outside of the box. All of our districts are different and have different compositions, interests and needs,” Trainer said. “Now is the time to start strong discussions about doing those things. We need to start off on the ground level and work our way up. There’s a lot we can accomplish in the next four years. We’ve got some major decisions we need to look strongly at and put all of our agendas aside and look at them for face value.”
While Trainer said bonds are likely needed to accomplish most county projects, he is hopeful existing revenue can be aligned to pay for some needs without impacting the county’s millage rate.
“You can look at (county needs and development) from three different options: you can do nothing; you can use our existing capacity and not add on extra millage by possibly using existing tax dollars coming into the county — not necessarily cut but reorganizing; you can look for extra money,” he said. “We could leverage the county’s borrowing capacity to do multiple things based on public input and direction. If the public doesn’t want to do anything, then the community has spoken. People in my district always call me with concerns about a better quality of life. If we can present projects aimed at improving that, I think the community will be receptive.”
Trainer said potential improvement projects could target a multitude of areas from infrastructure and sewer developments to programs aimed at wellness and crime prevention. Improvement projects, he said, will help the county as it continues to grow.
“I think my district has been a hidden jewel as far as growth because I have an area outside of Starkville bringing in a substantial tax base and also some sales tax. Infrastructure and sewage extensions will have a positive impact on the growth of our tax base. I also believe recreation and quality of life have a strong correlation,” he said. “Our county is unique because we have resources and people here with high expectations. There are things we have to do now because of our current growth. Maybe if we start talking about these things it will get the community engaged.”
The board will not take action to secure new bonds before weighing the issue, holding public hearings and voting on the matter, Trainer said.
“The only thing we could possibly do right now is pass a resolution for intent and then you have to give the public an opportunity to weigh in on the matter,” Trainer said. “I know our old and new supervisors have a lot of things they want to see done in Oktibbeha County.”
Board President Marvell Howard said he is in favor of beneficial projects, but not those which will burden tax payers.
“At the beginning of a new term you want to look at everything and put all your cards on the table to see where you’re at and what the possibilities are for the future,” Howard said. “I don’t want to burden the tax payers any more than is absolutely necessary; however, it’s good to look at the risk-benefit ratio and see if it is worth it. We’re always open to any option which will benefit Oktibbeha County.”
Also during today’s meeting, East Oktibbeha County Volunteer Fire Department will send a representative to present the county with the title from a newly acquired tanker apparatus. The $220,000 unit was acquired by an Assistance to Firefighters Grant from the U.S. Fire Administration. The grant paid for 95 percent of the cost while private donations covered the remainder.
U.S. Representative Gregg Harper visited Oktibbeha County Thursday and had a chance to inspect Oktibbeha County Fire Service’s new equipment. Since the AFG is a federal program, it requires congressional approval every seven years.
“I think ... him coming out here and seeing hands-on what the results of that project are is beneficial rather than trying to make a phone call and trying to plead (for support),” OCFS volunteer firefighter Austin Check said Thursday. “This is his district; he understands how rural fire works and how important this is to us.”
In other board business, supervisors could approve a new employee handbook for the sheriff’s department.
Sheriff Steve Gladney said the handbook is identical to the one used during former Sheriff Dolph Bryan’s administration but with a few clerical changes.