December 18, 2012 10:08:52 AM
The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors again discussed what is being done with the county's portion of land at Oktibbeha County Lake during its 30-minute meeting Monday.
And again, little progress was made and no action was taken.
Currently, the county controls approximately 95 acres of land, a majority of which is part of the actual lake, with a small section of useable land bordering it. Both the county's land and nearly 312 acres of 16th section land owned by the Oktibbeha County School District was previously leased to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. The MDWFP decided not to renew its lease it had held since 1986 after a state-mandated reappraisal valued the land at $100 per acre. State law dictates that leases must be made at the appraised value of the land. The MDWFP's lease expired in May.
Prior to the reappraisal, the MDWFP was paying an annual lease fee of just $2,500.
In November, former Mississippi State University basketball coach Rick Stansbury and business partner John Barnett signed a 24-year lease for just the 312 acres of 16th section land owned by the OCSD for $31,290 annually.
Last week, officials with the county said they were working on trying to develop a deal with Stansbury and Barnett to lease the county's 95 acres, but during Monday's supervisors meeting there was little to report.
Board of Supervisors president Orlando Trainer said county administrator Don Posey did let the board know that conversations have continued but that Posey did not bring back any recommendations. Trainer said he thinks both the county and Stansbury and Barnett are far from being on the same page.
"At this point, I don't know if they are just jumping up and down wanting to lease what we have," Trainer said after the meeting. "At the same time, I may be wrong, but to me, it would be an advantage for them and an advantage for us if they were the primary lease holder. It's not as close as we want it to be right now, but we are working on it.
"Someone is going to have to make the first move, though."
There is no real urgent time frame the county is working under, Trainer said, but he did say that regardless of what Stansbury and Barnett decide to do, something has to be accomplished by either the county or a private owner before May when Trainer said he believes the duo will have their portion of lake open to the public.
"There are some liability issues, of course, but at the same time, (the land) just needs to be utilized," Trainer said. "If the county has it and the citizens are able to utilize it, then that's fine, but just having land out there that's not doing anything isn't fine.
"At least under private ownership, we could collect some taxes, but it won't do that if we still own it."
If the county cannot work something out with Stansbury and Barnett, the board of supervisors will be back to square one, Trainer said.
"I don't think the board wants to even think about it right now, we want to see if we can stay the course and hopefully work something out," he said. "If they don't decide to do it, it puts us in a situation where we have some land out there that really needs some direction and really needs someone to manage it."
In other board business, the county adopted new retiree requirements for county employees. An amendment passed and added to the current policy in the employee handbook means the county's insurance, the Mississippi Public Employee Benefit Trust, would become a secondary policy to anyone working for the county who is eligible and participating in Medicare.
The language added reads:
"The plan should at all times be secondary coverage to Medicare individuals who are 65 years or older. (In order for that to work as designed) retirees participating in the health benefit program are required to participate in Medicare Part A and Part B. Failure to enroll in Part A and Part B will automatically disqualify them from participation."
Also on the agenda was the re-appointment of Jim Wilson to the Solid Waste Authority Board, but no action was taken because the appointment was out of District 1 and District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery had not had an opportunity to check with Wilson to see if he wanted to be re-appointed.