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MCEPA meeting focuses on broadband, board seat

AMORY – During Monroe County Electric Power Association’s (MCEPA) quarterly meeting Oct. 1, the cooperative’s board of directors heard about the potential broadband internet issue and tabled appointing a new board member.

As far as the internet issue, cooperative member Alan Pearson, who is technology networking manager for the Monroe County School District, enthusiastically endorsed the broadband initiative.

“The new broadband option would be a great benefit to our schools,” he said. “Our current broadband options are limited and expensive. Day-to-day school business requires dependable internet service.”

Pearson elaborated that current limitations are aggravated by the fact that AT&T has competing interests tied up in court.

“What you are undertaking has a lot of potential. This is the biggest thing since the internet first came to our schools in 1997,” he said.

MCEEPA General Manager Barry Rowland shared a summary of findings from the second feasibility study that was revised to reflect a four-year build-out plan rather than two years.

No substantial change from the initial study was indicated. The estimated time to realize cumulative profit under the four-year plan was extended by one year to 16, with a net income not expected before year nine of operation. A three percent annual growth rate was projected along with a maximum debt balance of $32 million projected by year four of operation.

Board members agreed the four-year model appeared to be the better approach. Further action on the matter awaits results of a survey recently mailed to cooperative members to gauge interest in broadband and further review of the feasibility studies.

During a community meeting addressing the potential of broadband availability in early August in Becker, MCEPA board member Rickey Camp resigned. Rowland read Camp’s resignation letter, and the board voted to accept it.

Several MCEPA members have submitted letters of interest to fill Camp’s post. Names released by Rowland to date include Andrea Stevens, Richard Smith, Brad Leach, James Bell, Robert Doss and Derrick Forrester.

Another applicant was mentioned but was immediately disqualified because a relative is an employee of MCEPA. Applications will be accepted until the next quarterly meeting in December.

Smith and Bell were the only applicants who attended the meeting. Both were offered an opportunity to speak. After introducing themselves, both men assured the board that while they both favor launching the broadband service, their priorities were first to contribute to the success of MCEPA.

The board took no action on filling the vacant post at this time.

“It would only be fair to invite the other candidates to appear and speak to us,” said board president Lem Holman.

Open houses highlight two Aberdeen preservation projects

ABERDEEN – Through back-to-back ceremonies Oct. 3, work provided by Mississippi Department of Archives and History Community Heritage Grants was spotlighted at the M&O Depot and the Monroe County Courthouse Annex.

“We need to look at one building at a time. If we can get more people making positive steps like this, we can make a difference,” said county administrator Bob Prisock.

Since 2016, the county’s buildings and grounds department has worked towards revitalizing the former Monroe County Health Department, which is commonly known now as the annex.

The building was constructed in 1950 and has been vacant since the new health department was built nearly a decade ago across Chestnut Street. The county has saved approximately $80,000 in costs thanks to labor provided by the Monroe County Work Center.

“I’ve been amazed by the talent of the work center,” Prisock said. “Buildings and grounds knocked it out of the park.”

He added due to project specs, special plaster work was required, and the county couldn’t find a contractor to meet the requirements. Conveniently, one of the work center representatives had that background.

Building and grounds director Phil Herndon thanked Dwight Tate and Don Stegall of the work center for allowing the labor to be provided.

“It’s nice to see with as much history here that it’s been revitalized and brought back to life and being utilized,” said District 1 Supervisor Joseph Richardson.

During the M&O Depot’s dedication, Aberdeen Historic Preservation Commission Chairperson Kathy Seymour explained the history of the building and the project in itself.

“Dwight Stevens and Rufus Schrock started this project in 2004,” she said. “I thought when we started with this in 2004, we’d nail up some things and be done. No. Once we got involved with Belinda Stewart Architects, we saw what we had [with the building’s potential].”

The M&O Railroad started before the Civil War, and the depot was constructed in 1857 before tracks were laid.

“The Union soldiers had no idea what this building was, and it was the only one that didn’t get burned,” she said.

The first trains started from the depot in 1869, and it was abandoned in 1940 after the railroad went bankrupt. In 1945, the City of Aberdeen bought the building and leased it to a John Deere dealership.

It has been a designated Mississippi landmark since 1886.

New additions include a handicap ramp, new paint and entranceway improvements.

The annex will be used to store county voting machines and court documents, while the depot will eventually be used as a rentable venue, with space for a potential business incubator.

The depot project is ongoing, and an application was submitted two weeks ago for another Community Heritage Grant to complete interior work.

Melissa Meador/Buy at Photos.MonroeCountyJournal.com  


Amory running back Charleston French rushed for nearly 100 yards and a touchdown.

Blues festival pays tribute to one of Aberdeen’s most influential artists

ABERDEEN – This weekend’s two-day free blues festival continues a 12-year tradition of paying tribute to one of Aberdeen’s native sons while bridging plenty of activities for all ages.

The Bukka White Blues Festival will be held at Blue Bluff Oct. 11 and 12 and feature live blues artists, food vendors, the Ribs on the River barbecue competition, a Friday night steak cook-off, animal shows hosted by wildlife biologist Bob Tarter, a petting zoo, several inflatables, kayak rentals through River Life Kayak Rentals, a kiddie train, laser tag and a mobile video game truck.

“We will focus more on children’s activities this year,” said festival chairperson Em Walters. “They’ve got a truck where you can go inside and play video games, and they set up laser tag outside. You’ll have targets and things to hide behind and you wear a vest and when the laser beam hits the target on the vest, you get points.

“We’ll also have cornhole for everybody’s use. Not a tournament, but it’ll be there for when you want to play,” Walters said.

Friday’s first musical act, Stormy Monday Blues Band, starts at 6:15 p.m., followed by the Stella Vees and Big George Brock. Kevin Waide kicks off Saturday’s entertainment at noon, followed by the Bill Abel Band, Big Joe Shelton, The Electric Mudd, Lightnin’ Malcolm and Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band.

“I feel like a broken record. I say we have the best every year. Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band has gone big time, and they came back to us this year because they love the small venue and we take them fishing. They have a big time when they’re here. They’ll soon be too big us to get anymore. They are traveling throughout the United States. We’re proud to have them and all the acts. They’re all class acts in the world of blues. They’re all top notch,” Walters said.

She added one blues fan from France has already expressed his plans to attend.

“We pull international fans every year. They can’t get over it when they get here the class acts that we have, and it’s a small venue. They can get up close,” Walters said.

The Bukka White Blues Festival bears the name of a bluesman whose influence is heard through the music of Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan. He even gave his cousin, B.B. King, his first guitar.

White was born in 1906 between Aberdeen and Houston and died in 1977 in Memphis. Throughout his lifetime, he became an internationally known musician and was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1990.

In preparation of this year’s festival, volunteers participated in a cleanup on the water and shoreline in conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“We had volunteer boats from the Sandbar Tribe and pulled big logs out for the county to come back and pick up. We picked up debris and trash along the shoreline just for the festival,” Walter said.

Commemorative T-shirts will be available for $25 at the festival. Also, the Junior Women’s League will be manning the donation bucket at the road.

For more information, check out www.bukkawhitebluesfestival.com or call 369-9440.