October 30, 2012 11:06:03 AM
STARKVILLE -- Board members from both the Greater Starkville Development Partnership and the Oktibbeha County Economic Development Authority signed and authorized a revised contract with a new regional economic development coalition Monday night.
Originally, the proposed Golden Triangle Regional Development Authority, led by Columbus-Lowndes Development Link CEO Joe Max Higgins, was seeking a two-year, interim deal with Starkville and Oktibbeha County. Oktibbeha would join Lowndes and Clay, who have already signed on, in the tri-county partnership.
The revision to the contract approved by OCEDA and the GSDP Monday provides a three-year interim time frame, giving city and county administrators an extra year to evaluate how the proposed GTRDA would work.
The revised contract also includes a provision that would end the contract if legislation to permanently establish the GTRDA is passed prior to the end of the three-year contract period.
Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman, who was part of the steering committee for the new group this summer, said the extra year gives the city and county much needed flexibility before making any lasting decisions.
"This offers discretion, not only to Starkville and Oktibbeha but to the boards in Lowndes and Clay, so we can make the ultimate determination as to how we want to proceed," Wiseman said.
As requested in the original proposal, Starkville, Oktibbeha County, OCEDA and the GSDP would contribute a combined $350,000 a year to the GTRDA.
The Starkville Board of Aldermen will meet in the county courthouse with the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday at 3 p.m. to discuss and vote on the same contract.
With OCEDA and the GSDP on board, the GTRDA only lacks nods from the aldermen and supervisors. If both boards approve the contract Wednesday afternoon, a search can begin for an economic developer who will deal exclusively with development in Oktibbeha County and Starkville.
"I don't think any of us can fathom what it will be like having our own developer working in this team," said GSDP Board Chairman Steve Langston.
Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk's concern over time considerations was among the reasons the original two-year contract was tabled at the Board of Aldermen's Oct. 16 meeting. Sistrunk said she was worried the city and county would not have enough time to assess the GTRDA's progress in just two years, especially with potential new board members coming in next year.
Now that another year was added to the interim agreement, Sistrunk, who likely would have voted against original contract, said she is much more confident in the revision.
"I think it will give a new board an opportunity to be more fully informed about the process," Sistrunk said. "It's also a chance to see if this is going to work as well as people are hoping, if it is something that we want to pursue and how we want to pursue it going forward."
Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins sent a release to the Dispatch, explaining that he will be unable to attend Wednesday's meeting, and that the meeting was set for "a specific date and time certain without any input from me, who is an active and busy practicing attorney," he said.
"I am pro-business and I support economic development. Consistent with my conservative values and perspectives, I will not support any action or legislation that will increase tax burdens on our citizens without their authorization through a vote."
With or without Perkins presence, it seems as if both the supervisors and aldermen will provide enough "yes" votes to approved the measure and sign the contract Wednesday afternoon. No one on the Board of Supervisors has spoken in opposition to the GTRDA and Sistrunk's reservations, which were shared by a couple other aldermen.