Orlando Trainer, Marvel Howard, Lynn Spruill
August 6, 2018 11:12:07 AM
Oktibbeha County is in the very early stages of considering a relationship with the city of Starkville for recreation.
Supervisors discussed the possibility at last week's budget workshop meeting, where Board President Orlando Trainer said Mayor Lynn Spruill asked the county to consider putting some funding toward a park the city is looking to build at Cornerstone Park on Highway 25.
Supervisors seemed generally receptive to the idea on Thursday. However, they talked about having conversations with Starkville on ways to expand recreation throughout the county, in addition to what's being considered within the city limits.
"I'm thinking about county-wide recreation," Trainer said. "I'm thinking about not only the lake, but the horse park -- I'm thinking about everything. It could be a real game-changer."
District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard said he's not opposed to partnering with the city. However, he floated the idea of looking for ways to partner to expand recreation activities at places like the Oktibbeha County Lake. He pointed to Lake Lowndes, in Lowndes County, as an example that Oktibbeha County could look at to make better use of the lake.
"I agree with the concept," Howard said. "I just think we also need to add on the table other recreation besides just sports and inside the city limits. It's the perfect opportunity. I'm like Orlando -- let's just put it all on the table and talk."
The city and county will likely hold a joint meeting to discuss possible partnership opportunities, though when is not clear. Trainer said he'd speak to Spruill about setting up a joint session.
On Friday, Spruill said she'd talked to Trainer and District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery about the board's discussion.
"I would certainly like to see us work together on something that'd benefit the county and the city," she said. "Recreational sports and tournament sports would be beneficial to the city from a tourism standpoint, which then benefits the county. With that, there's possibly the growth of jobs, and that benefits county residents as well."
Spruill said she'd hope for the county to dedicate a mill or more for recreation in the coming years, which could help with construction, and then maintenance for expanded recreation. A county mill is currently worth $357,680.
She also said she thinks it's worth talking and having a joint meeting about possibilities for recreational partnerships beyond the city limits. However, she said the city's support depends on what ideas the county wants to explore. For example, she said she wasn't sure of the viability of a water park at the county lake, but said she's still open to a discussion about that or other ideas.
A timeline on when the supervisors might look to add funding to help support recreation is as of yet unclear. County Administrator Emily Garrard said it's too soon in the conversations to try to budget the cost for this cycle, and Trainer said he expects the process will take a few years.
Howard also said he views current talks as "an initial conversation" to see how a partnership might play out.
"If we go into this joint venture, the city's really going to benefit from it, especially if you start adding lots of tournaments and things like that," he said. "People coming in and staying in the motels and eating in the restaurants. What kind of slice of that can we get? What piece of that can we get that goes into our coffers? It's just a lot of questions.
"(Maybe there's) some type of special legislation to see if we can benefit," Howard continued. "Don't get me wrong -- I know recreation for Oktibbeha County is recreation for all, but I think we need to look at special legislation."
Spruill said she's open to talking about partnerships but isn't willing to consider divvying up revenue from the city's 2-percent food and beverage tax, which is already split five ways. Half of that money, she said, is already split between the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Oktibbeha County Economic Development Authority and Mississippi State University's Student Government Association. She said the city diverts 40 percent back into its Parks and Recreation Department and the city receives 10 percent.
However, she said the city would support the county seeking its own two percent tax to help generate revenue.
"It's intended to grow more activities and benefits," she said. "It's not a revenue that comes to us for spending on something else. We dedicate almost all that we get to the parks and the things that would bring people back into town."
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