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Questions About Reinvesting Hospital Fund

Ron Williams

Questions about reinvesting the Hospital fund, money that the county has in reserve from the sale of the hospital to Baptist and the interest that has been earned since then, arose recently. Lowndes County has about $30 million in that fund. The county, according to County Administrator Ralph Billingsley, had invested the money in Regions Bank in a money market fund. That fund had been earning the county over $200,000 at 70 basis points (or 7 tenths of 1 percentage point) interest, but with the volatile markets world -wide, Billingsley said at Friday’s supervisor meeting that Regions would offer a continued rate of 30 basis points (or 3 tenths of 1 percentage point), which amounts to only $90,000 over a years time earned on the $30 million – which is practically nothing.
At Friday’s board meeting, Billingsley aked that a committee be formed to study looking into reinvesting the money somewhere that would earn the county the best bang for their buck. He suggested that he, Financial Officer Dave Basinger, County Attorney Tim Hudson and board President Harry Sanders be a part of that committee. Sanders suggested that incoming District 2 Supervisor Bill Brigham (who has spent most of his career in the banking business) be included and the supervisors agreed.
After Monday’s short board meeting, the committee met in the Chancery Clerk Office’s working board room. The issue at hand was what exactly the committee could recommend and take back to the board of supervisors as far as the county reinvesting the hospital fund. The law states that the county shall invest in money market funds from 14 days to 1 year. The current money market fund at Regions Bank is safe in that the county can withdraw its money at anytime without penalty. But Billingsley had talked of investing in Mississippi Bonds, where a rate of up to 2 percent might be achieved, but it could be risky. If Mississippi Bonds failed, the money could end up lost. Whereas, at least for now, the $90,000 earned on the $30 million fund right now is locked in.
The committee agreed to do nothing at the moment. State Auditor Stacey Pickering’s office has been made aware of the issue. His office should be looking into it and will likely offer some advice on what the county can do with the money.
Coahoma County has a similar situation and recently (from what i’ve heard. RW) invested in the Mississippi Bond market. Coahoma County has a $40 million reserve fund. Pickering’s office will likely look into Coahoma County’s situation and use it as a guideline to which Lowndes County could learn from.

Harvey Myrick’s Appointment to The CCVB Board

At Friday’s board meeting, Harry Sanders made the announcement (one that everyone already knew because the story had already ran in the Commercial Dispatch as well as The Packet. RW) that he and Columbus Mayor Robert Smith had agreed on their joint appointment to the Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau Board (CCVB). It was Harvey Myrick.
Myrick is founder of the annual Grillin’ On The River (GOTR) festival that takes place in April. The festival receives funding from the CCVB, which immediately raised questions from some in the community of conflict of interest. The CCVB met last week to approve their budget and Myrick was sworn-in at that meeting as its newest and 9th (final) board member.
First of all let me say that, personally…it would be hard to find anyone more dedicated to the betterment of arts, festivals, visitation, culture or life in general in Columbus or Lowndes County than Harvey Myrick. You have to admire his get-up-and-go and his motivation to quality of life issues locally. No one is more dedicated or cares as much as Harvey…period!
But we can’t ignore the elephant in the room…and that is his involvement with Grillin.
Myrick has assured everyone (and I believe him) that when it comes to voting or discussion about anything to do with GOTR, he’ll recuse himself and leave the room. He also recognizes the possible conflict and has even taken it upon himself to get an Attorney General’s opinion on the matter. He wants to be sure there isn’t a problem and every ‘i’ is dotted and every ‘t’ is crossed.
The fact is…we could use a magnifying glass and look at other similar situations with boardmembers on other boards, executive committee’s, etc…and find a list of other potential conflicts of interest, i can assure you. But I think if the AG is satisfied with Myrick serving on that board, I will be too. Just my two cents.

Ron Williams can be reached by email at Ronsings2you@aol.com

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2 comments

  1. KJ

    7/10’s of 1 percent interest. I’m sorry, but WTF. Is there anyone reading this who isn’t getting a better interest rate on a consumer-grade savings or checking account?

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