HOUSTON – It is once again budget time, and that brings along with it discussions of where money should be allocated for the upcoming fiscal year.
One such discussion that arose in the supervisors meeting last Tuesday, was that of economic development.
At the moment, the county levies one mil of taxes for economic development, and that mil is split between the Chickasaw Development Foundation and the Okolona Chamber of Commerce.
Board President Russell Brooks proposed the idea of keeping the mil, which is now equal to approximately $90,000, however, instead of contributing it to these two separate entities, creating a Chickasaw Development Authority, which would be a blanket economic development district that would encompass the entire county. This was spawned by the findings of the comprehensive study that the county had performed earlier this year, which said that the biggest threat to the county's economic development was their lack of a “unified front,” meaning that when recruiting industries, it was often town against town within the county instead of the county as a whole working together.
“We can combine those two to form the Chickasaw County Development Authority, and we can use those funds to fund that authority,” said Brooks, who talked with the county attorneys and clarified that the county can do this is they were to choose to.
He also stressed the importance of the county being unified when it came to industry recruitment.
“Right now, we don't have a Chickasaw County Development Authority, we are going through those two municipalities, and we don't have anyone that we have hired to do economic development, county-wide. What we have now is two groups that are just doing for their municipalities and no one is doing it for the county. The way I see it is, that has been one of the problems and the reason that our county hasn't been able to move forward, because we have been depending on them, and they're not doing anything county-wide for us.”
He said that with the work that the county is hoping to get done with the mega-site, creating a county industrial park, that he felt it would be in the best interest of the county to create their own authority to represent them as a whole.
Other supervisors had varied reactions. They were not necessarily against the idea, they just felt that it needed to be executed with precision and done right.
“That is something that we need to make sure we get it right,” said District 2 Supervisor Bill Blissard. “We need to make sure we get it right in what it looks like, I don't think we need three entities pulling three different ways, I think if we do something, it should be an umbrella working with CDF and the Chamber too. They need at least a little bit of input in it too. I'm not disagreeing with you at all.”
Other supervisors also shared their thoughts.
“I think we need one for the whole county, but we need to discuss this with them” said District 5 Supervisor Margaret Futral.
Brooks said that he felt that it was the right time now, however, because the county is in a position to reallocate the money for this upcoming budget cycle instead of having to wait.
“I think now is the time because if we wait until next year it's going to be lengthy. We're right here, and each one of them are going through changes at this time, I mean we had the director leave from [CDF] and Okolona is basically Christmas Parade and Chamber Banquet, and that's it. What Okolona has done is they hired Patsy Gregory to be their economic developer, and that's what I'm saying. Patsy is doing economic development for the City of Okolona, not for the Chickasaw County. They're getting this Chamber money and they have their own economic developer, and Patsy Gregory is getting a salary from the city to be economic developer, which this money doesn't have anything to do with, this goes to the Chamber of Commerce, and it's the Christmas Parade and Chamber Banquet. Now, Houston may be a whole different scenario, but I know that the City of Okolona has Patsy hired and they pay her salary from the city, not the Chamber. The Chamber is only doing the banquet and Christmas Parade, and they are getting this money to sponsor their banquet and Christmas Parade, and I'm not against them, but it is what it is. If we are going to get someone to do economic development for Chickasaw County as a whole, I think we need to combine this and get someone as a whole and if Okolona can pay a person to do economic development for them, then I think Houston should be able to pay someone to do economic development for them also, but at the same time, we need to have someone, because we are working with some projects that extend beyond the scope and if we don't have this economic development foundation set up, we can't hire someone to come in and do economic development for us without having this foundation set up.”
Futral said that she agreed, she just wished that they would give the two entities a notice and give them the opportunity to talk to the board.
They left the discussion there, and returned to finish it at the end of the meeting.
Brooks made a motion to create the Chickasaw County Economic Development District and reallocate the funding from the Chamber and CDF to there, however, it died due to lack of a second.
Blissard echoed his statement that he was not against it, he was just against rushing into it without a clear plan and advanced notice to the two entities that stand to lose funding.
– Approved the August minutes with corrections.
– Opened the public hearing on the budget and tax levy.
– Approved purchasing an ad in the Come Home to Chickasaw Magazine.
– Discussed the handicapped ramp project and the increase in prices, however, they were unable to grant an increase in pay to the company because it would be retroactive. They would have had to submit a change order request while working on the project.
– Approved renewing the contract with Swank Motion Pictures for the Regional Jail, which is paid out of the inmate canteen fund.
– Approved the meal log.
– Heard from EMA Director Linda Griffin, who informed the board that she submitted the paperwork for the Homeland Security Reallocation Grant for the generator at the Regional Jail.
– Approved a reduction in Real.
– Approved the 90 day solid waste list.
– Approved the 30 day solid waste list.
– Approved pay requests for County Road 410 and 405.
– Declined to let Cadamy Construction complete the work on County Road 93, which the bond company was requesting, citing that the company had been given ample opportunity to do that when they still had the contract and failed to do so, it also did not include fixing the incorrect work that had been done already.
– Approved hiring Marcus Robinson for the Road Department.
– Approved moving Paul Hill to full time.
– Approved getting the road grater repaired by Stribling Equipment for $35,162.56.
– Approved purchasing a pot hole patcher on state contract from B&D Distribution.
– Approved culvert requests.
– Heard from Purchase Clerk Tommie Morgan, who informed them that the air conditioner at the Houston Courthouse would require a reverse auction.
– Approved the solid waste adjustments.
– Approved partnering with Three Rivers for the Medicare Open Enrollment again this year.
– Approved applying for another grant for courthouse preservation through the Department of Archives and History.
– Approved the petition of Gus Clark for Election Commissioner.
– Approved the petition of Gary Huffman for Election Commissioner.
– Approved the inventory deletions.
– Approved the two sets of claims, one for the jurors and the general claims.
– Recessed until Monday, Sep. 13 at 9 a.m.