County supports new EMCC nursing school

June 16, 2009

Neal Wagner -


Lowndes and its surrounding counties soon may be partnering to help fund the construction of a nursing school facility at East Mississippi Community College, members of the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors announced during a Monday meeting. 


The board voted unanimously to tentatively pay up to $525,000 for likely the next 20 years to fund the EMCC project, which includes the construction of a nursing school facility at the college''s Mayhew campus.  


Once completed, the nursing school likely will be able to continually handle classes of nearly 100 students, explained Columbus-Lowndes Development Link Chief Executive Officer Joe Higgins. 


Because most funding for the project relies on donations from Lowndes, Clay, Oktibbeha, Noxubee, Kemper and possibly Lauderdale counties, the nursing school construction project likely will not commence until EMCC gathers the support of all counties, Higgins explained. 


"Clay has already voted to support this project, so you would be the second county on board with this," Higgins told the board, explaining each county is being asked to pledge each year the equivalent of one property tax mill, which currently would be about $521,000 for Lowndes County. 


"Noxubee County will be acting in this very quickly, and Oktibbeha County is actively discussing it right now. Lauderdale is split between a few different colleges and community colleges, so they may be the odd ones out in this," Higgins added. "Without the support of at least those first five counties (Lowndes, Clay, Noxubee, Oktibbeha and Kemper counties), they can''t build the facility they need to build." 


Although the Board of Supervisors agreed to provide its share of funding for the project, the motion was contingent upon participation from Clay, Oktibbeha, Noxubee and Kemper counties, and upon EMCC''s submission to the county of an "acceptable" business plan. 


"A 20-year funding term from us would be preferred, but the time period is definitely open to consideration once we get an acceptable business plan from them," said District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks.  


After four of the involved counties pledge support for the project, EMCC officials will draw out plans outlining the location and the specifications of the upcoming facility, Higgins said.  


"We look at this as an economic development project, not just a nursing school project," Higgins said. "They have a targeted (construction) starting date of next spring. The building will probably be complete within about a year of that date." 


In other business, the board: