December 13, 2012 11:36:35 AM
Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors President Orlando Trainer said Wednesday he thinks the county administrator and board attorney are close to drawing up a workable deal to lease the county's portion of the land at Oktibbeha County Lake.
In November, former Mississippi State University basketball coach Rick Stansbury and partner John Barnett signed a 24-year lease with the Oktibbeha County School District for nearly 312 acres of the district's 16th section land, which is land set aside by the state for local school boards to manage, lease and benefit from the proceeds.
The acreage leased by Barnett and Stansbury includes most of the county lake and surrounding land, except for approximately 95 acres owned by the county and controlled by the board of supervisors.
But the county's 95 was included in a previous deal with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, which had leased the property since 1986. Though the county did not have a written agreement with MDWFP, their portion was included in the lease with the school board.
"The county, really just through a gentlemen's agreement, just gave them the right to the rest of the property," Trainer said. "So because we didn't ever even have anything written up with (MDWFP), this is somewhat of some new ground for us as far as having a contract and lease agreement."
MDWFP was paying an annual rent of $2,500 for approximately 451 acres, but when it was reappraised at $100 an acre last May, MDWFP decided not to renew their lease.
Due to liability issues, the school board and county decided to close the recreational area to the public.
The OCSD board of trustees was forced to reject an initial bid from Stansbury and Barnett this summer because the bid did not meet the appraised value, by which the district is legally obligated to abide. The duo initially bid an annual rent of $25,000, but after it was turned down, they came back in November with an offer of $31,290 a year, which was accepted.
The agreed-upon lease gives Barnett and Stansbury control of 298 acres of water and 25 acres of land.
Stansbury could not be reached Wednesday, but Trainer said he and Barnett have told him they hope to reopen the lake to the public in May.
"I know this -- they are really trying to do something the public will embrace," Trainer said. "It'll probably take the entire winter for them to finish tightening things up out there."
Now the school board is left with approximately 95 acres, which Trainer said Barnett and Stansbury thought would be included in the deal and are likely still interested in obtaining.
"I think it makes sense for them to bid for the whole thing, so we need to come to some kind of understanding," Trainer said. "Hopefully we can get all this resolved before they open up the lake to the public."
Despite all the talk, county administrator Don Posey said he is still somewhat at "ground zero" with drawing up a document, but he has reviewed property maps and is ready to present them to Barnett and Stansbury. He said he hopes to contact one of them today or Friday.
Trainer remains optimistic.
"It seems to me everything will eventually work out," he said.