Citizen Carl Lee was first up on the county agenda. Lee, always bubbling with enthusiasm, greeted the board with a hardy “Good morning”.
“I enlisted the broad topic of economic development. There are a number of areas that I wanted to bring to the boards’ attention for discussion. But the first and most important consideration is I believe we need to encourage again to go back to the drawing board with the appropriate officials in Clay County, Oktibbeha County and Lowndes…and see if we can’t attract a regional mall. As I travel I see that…anytime I come into Birmingham and stop in Tuscaloosa, I see a number of citizens of Columbus shopping in Tuscaloosa. Same thing in Tupelo when I go there. We’re losing a lot of sales tax dollars. And we jeopardize our citizens safety when they have to go 60 or more miles to shop. Clearly we are, and though Columbus and Lowndes County and the Golden Triangle has made great strides in economic development with its industrial base. Now I believe it’s fitting that we try and attract the service economy to meet that growth in the industrial base. I think it’s almost laughable at this point that we still have the same shopping that we had when I was in high school.”
“When I was a student at Miss State in the mid to late 70’s, we used to joke people from Tupelo and tell them that they had to come to Columbus or go to Memphis and shop. Well, in 25 years, that’s changed as you well know. So, again, I want to encourage the board to work with those officials. I talked with the mayor of Starkville, Parker Wiseman, last year…and of course there was, at some point, back on the drawing board, the idea to build a mall in Starkville extending from University Blvd. I thought that was ill-timed. That I thought it was not enough space…it jams us up. I’m an Mississippi State alumnus. In fact, our greater interest would be served by having a mall suited for the entire Golden Triangle that’s accessible for everyone.”
“One of the things that Mr. Higgins (Link CEO. RW) has done and done well is tout the Golden Triangle.”
Lee went on to scold the supervisors a little, who he said when it comes to the idea of consolidating county services, “we need to be mindful that we are neither Kingmakers…and there are no kings.” “In public service, consolidating isn’t always the best thing. Thinking this is going to improve us some way…we’re taking people’s jobs. These people who have these jobs have children to feed and to educate. On the other hand, sometimes when we do a lot of consolidating, putting a lot of power, decision-making in one persons hands, we, in fact, advocate our responsibility as elected and appointed officials.”
“Again, I want to commend Mr. Higgins and the efforts of the LINK, for a number of years now…and I think we can all go on record as saying that they have done an outstanding job…I do have some concerns that Mr. Higgins, when you call him…he does not return calls. You can’t get a meeting with him. Last time I checked, some of these are public dollars. An elected official invited me to a meeting of the LINK at MUW. And I went. And when I got there they told me I couldn’t sit in and listen in a meeting. Here is my question then and now. And I’ve been unable to get Mr Higgins, is how can the meeting of elected public officials, in a public building, on a public university campus. We might want to look at that kind of behavior.”
Lee thanked the board for their time and, again, encouraged board President Harry Sanders (who serves on the LINK board. RW) to work with economic development officials in trying to lure the regional mall.
In other board action
• Heard from Neel-Schaffer Engineer Kevin Stafford, who updated the board on the nearing completion date of the new Soccer Complex in Burns Bottom. Stafford said the Grand Opening for the complex is set for Saturday, August 22nd. Final grounds preparations are now being done on the project.
Columbus/Lowndes Parks and Rec Director Roger Short also updated the supervisors on the project. Short reminded them that most of the equipment (bleachers, etc) has already been purchased and paid for.
• Heard from Road Manager Ronnie Burns, who brought forth a request from the town of Crawford for the county to supply a 15 yard load of No. 5 stone for the playground (in front of City Hall). A motion was made by District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith, seconded by District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks to approve the request.
Sanders said that the county has, in similar circumstances, made the city of Columbus, as well as the towns of Caledonia and Artesia, pay for such material. He felt the supervisors would be setting a precedent by donating the material.
During discussion, Brooks asked Burns “how much are we talking about here?” Burns answered that it would probably $4-500 worth of stone.
Jeff Smith asked, “Is there any way we can not charge them for the material?” Sanders answered that,again, they would be setting a precedent.
Attorney Tim Hudson, based on prior circumstances, said he didn’t believe the county could legally give them the material. The board decided to use county equipment to deliver the stones, but that the town of Crawford pay for the material.
• Approved the Minutes of the CDBG public hearing of August 6th.
• Heard from County Engineer Bob Calvert on closing Armstrong Road (from railroad track to the quarter section line) and Schaffers’ Chapel Road (the stretch between the new Hwy 45 4-lane section and past the two existing bridges). Set a public hearing on the matter for September 14th at 9:05 a.m. (A board meeting will be held that day. RW)
• Heard from County Administrator Ralph Billingsley. He announced six candidates for the at large CVB board appointment (to fill the term of George Swales, who is resigning). The applicants are, Leon Ellis, Jean Bigelow, Keith Worshaim, Jim Dierking, Kathy Howell and Fred Kinder. The appointment will be made during the September 14th board meeting and the supervisors agreed to use the nomination process instead of the motion process recently used to make the Columbus city CVB board appointment (of Bernard Buckhalter). The nomination process gives all applicants a chance to be voted up or down.
• Approved the finalization of completion of documentation on the Jenny Penn Road project. District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith had brought the matter to the table.
• Leroy Brooks discussed guidelines for the assessment of the Volunteer Fire Departments.
The next Lowndes County Board of Supervisors meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 4th at 9 a.m. inside the boardroom at the courthouse.