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Supes left with questions after school district proposes land swap

 

From left, Joe Williams, John Montgomery, Orlando Trainer and Bricklee Miller

From left, Joe Williams, John Montgomery, Orlando Trainer and Bricklee Miller

 

 

Slim Smith

 

 

At its meeting Monday, the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors raised concerns about a proposal that the county buy a new office building for the Starkville-Oktibbeha School District administration in exchange for three properties the district no longer needs. 

 

The board discussed a letter from the school district, outlining the proposal, but supervisor Joe Williams said he was disappointed with one aspect of what he read in the letter -- or didn't read. 

 

Under the plan, the school district would make repairs to the three facilities that would be transferred to the county -- East School and the former East and West Oktibbeha high schools. 

 

"I would like to see what kind of time period these repairs would be made," Williams said. "I didn't see that in this letter. Would it be six months, nine months, a year, two years? If I agreed to this, I would have to know that they are wiling to make these repairs before turning the buildings over to the county. I don't see that." 

 

Supervisor John Montgomery, who said he has serious reservations about the plan, said he feared the costs to the county would be too high and questioned why the school district had allowed the properties to fall into such a state of disrepair. He also questioned why the county should consider purchasing the Lynn Lane building -- the former Mississippi State Department of Health building -- to be given to the school district for its new offices. 

 

"I'm a little disappointed in this," he said. "What are we getting in return? I have to wonder why the district has let these buildings get in this condition and what the costs would be to the county to maintain them. I also wonder why we need to spend $2.25 million for a building for the school district. If this was about kids, I'm all for it. But this is for the supervisors office. I know money is tight and they're coming to us to be their savior. But money is tight for us, too." 

 

Board president Orlando Trainer said he felt the county would ultimately benefit under the plan and said the county should follow through on its legal obligation to provide office space for the school district. 

 

"The last time I went to (the superintendent's office) it was raining inside the Greensboro Center," he said. "I was embarrassed. On the flip side we'll get additional space and access to these other school buddings. I think it would be a good deal." 

 

Supervisor Bricklee Miller said the cost of the new building was a primary concern. 

 

"My concern, is that the county has done what it's supposed to do in supplying (the school district) not just with adequate space, but very nice space," she said. "Now to supply them with another $2 million building ... That's beyond what we were required to do." 

 

Trainer polled the board informally as the meeting ended. Trainer and Marvel Howard said they supported the plan while Miller and Montgomery said they were opposed. Williams said he was undecided. 

 

"I like the idea, but I have some questions that I need to have answered before I could sign off on this," Williams said. 

 

After the meeting, supervisors moved across the street to attend the swearing in ceremonies for the recently elected chancery and circuit clerks.

 

Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]

 

 

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