August 22, 2017 10:24:49 AM
A potential property acquisition could move many of Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District's administrative functions to the former Mississippi State Department of Health office on Lynn Lane and give Oktibbeha County supervisors access to surplus property.
On Monday, SOCSD Superintendent Eddie Peasant and Assistant Superintendent Toriano Holloway unveiled a proposal from CMMG Enterprises LLC, the now-owner of the 48 Lynn Lane location, that gives the district four options to obtain the property: a straight purchase of $2.2 million; a 10-year lease where SOCSD would pay $17,000 per month, while CMMG picks up monthly and annual bills for property taxes, insurance and maintenance; a 10-year, $15,000-per-month lease that leaves SOCSD footing the additional costs of taxes, insurance and maintenance; and a lease-purchase option with a monthly cost to be determined later by the two entities.
District officials did not disclose a timeline for the potential acquisition.
MSDH's District 4 office in Starkville became available after the agency trimmed its former nine-district organizational structure to three regional offices this summer.
If SOCSD obtains the 10,679-square-foot building, Peasant said the district would house all but "one or two departments" at the location; relocate its child nutrition offices from Henderson Ward Stewart Elementary to the Greensboro Center, thereby freeing up additional classroom space at the school; return the bottom floor of the County Education Building, which currently houses the district's special education offices, back to supervisors; and close East Alternative School once officials are able to utilize additional free space created in Armstrong Elementary School after the SOCSD-Mississippi State University Partnership School opens in 2019.
Moving school operations out of the County Education Building, which also houses the Oktibbeha County Emergency Management Agency on its second floor, could allow supervisors to move its own administrative staff into the Main Street location, District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said Monday.
That move would then free up space in the Oktibbeha County Circuit Court Annex for court staff and election commissioners, he said.
Additional space for county operations and community programs could also be created if SOCSD strikes a deal with supervisors for East Alternative School, East Oktibbeha County High School and West Oktibbeha County High School.
SOCSD closed both county high school campuses after Starkville School District absorbed Oktibbeha County School District before the start of the 2015-16 academic year.
Both Peasant and Holloway said the district is still open to relinquishing control of the former OCSD buildings to the county, and supervisors previously said organizations, including Community Counseling, are interested in taking over the space.
Supervisors unanimously voted to have appraisals conducted on the three county campuses ahead of any potential negotiations.
"It's a win-win for the board and for the school district," Holloway said of the potential moves. "This facility fits us perfectly and opens up space in our schools. (The potential moves give) you free facilities and all that space back."
In other business, supervisors set Aug. 31 as the deadline for OCH Regional Medical Center to provide the county and hospital consultants due diligence information needed for potential suitors as they assess bidding on the publicly owned health care facility.
The board voted 3-2 to set the deadline and issue a letter to hospital trustees and Chief Executive Officer Richard Hilton demanding a "full accounting of its marketing and advertising expenditures related to the (request for proposals) process and the potential sale of the hospital."
A draft of the letter shows supervisors are also asking for copies of all marketing and advertising materials, including statements published on social media, dealing with the possible transaction and a petition calling for a referendum on the matter.
Trainer, along with District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller and District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams, supported the actions.
The request comes after a July 28 opinion from Mississippi Attorney Jim Hood's office said supervisors should have access to information "necessary in carrying out the duties" of a potential transaction and neither the county, nor the hospital can spend public funds to influence the outcome of November's planned referendum.
An online data repository was created for potential buyers after supervisors began an RFP process seeking bids for OCH. Organizations interested in making an offer for the hospital would be allowed to inspect certain data and use that information as basis for their bids.
In May, Hilton and OCH trustees said they would delay the release of what the hospital determined to be confidential information to the data room until after November's countywide referendum decides whether a potential transaction would move forward.
Releasing sensitive information to competitors, Hilton said, would place OCH in a disadvantage if voters eventually nix a potential transaction at the polls.
Supervisors amended the RFP process by moving the deadline for data uploads to the online repository back to Aug. 15 and the deadline for OCH bids to Sept. 15.
OCH representatives said about 95 percent of the board-requested information is currently present in the online repository, but consultant Ted Woodrell told supervisors Monday that some of that data is heavily redacted and would not be of use to bidders.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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