Lowndes County sportsplex gets green light

October 16, 2018 10:43:00 AM

Slim Smith - [email protected]


Lowndes County supervisors voted unanimously to proceed with the purchase of 89 acres in the western part of the county to build a sports complex after receiving clearance from the Federal Aviation Authority. 


The move came during Monday's regular board meeting after county engineer Bob Calvert provided documents from the FAA that cleared the bulk of the property for development. Supervisors had already agreed to the terms of the purchase of the land from Jimmy Graham and Greg Radar, contingent upon FAA approval that any planned facilities would not interfere with navigational equipment in the area.  


Golden Triangle Regional Airport Director Mike Hainsey said the equipment that could be affected, called a VORTAC system, is located in a structure north of Highway 82 near the Elm Lake subdivision owned by the FAA. It is used as a navigational aid for planes traveling through the region, Hainsey said. 


Board president Harry Sanders said the clearance was needed to make sure any structures built on the property -- including light poles, buildings and fencing -- would not interfere with that FAA equipment. 


Calvert said the FAA report confirmed that none of the planned facilities would exceed height restrictions, but that a roughly 20-acre buffer area between the navigational equipment and any metal structure would have to be maintained, leaving 69 acres for any planned structures.  


"That's more than enough land for what we want to do," Sanders said, "so I think we can go forward with this." 


There was some discussion of renegotiating the purchase to include only the 69 acres that could be developed, but District 2 Supervisor Bill Brigham urged the board to commit to the original purchase. 


"We got a good price on this property," Brigham said. "If we drop that (part) out of the purchase, the price is going to go up. I think it would be a mistake still not to buy the whole piece of property." 


The supervisors previously agreed to pay $840,000 for the land to be paid over eight years with no interest. The purchase price is $50,000 less than the property's appraised value ($10,000 an acre). 


"I'm just afraid if we start tampering with this, we run a risk," Brigham said. "As far as that part of the property, there still may be something we could use it for that the FAA would approve, maybe a walking path." 


Brigham also said the current restrictions might not always exist. 


"The system out there is going to be obsolete one of these days and that part of the property will be usable," he said. "Let's go ahead as we planned." 


The board agreed, voting to execute the contract and make its first $100,000 payment on Nov. 15. 


In other board business, supervisors agreed to post notice for the county prosecutor position that will become open in January. Current county prosecutor Allison Kizer will leave that position after being sworn in as county judge, for which she is running unopposed next month. 


At its Oct. 1 meeting, supervisors debated whether to restrict applicants to serve out the remaining year of Kizer's unexpired term to those who would agree not to run for the position in November 2019. 


With a split among the board on that matter, supervisors ultimately agreed to let that play out when they make their choice. 


"It could be that for some of us, whether or not the person wants to run again is OK, and for others it might not be," District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks said. "I think we should just let that play out and see how the votes go. There's no need to do anything else." 


Supervisors set the deadline to apply for the county prosecutor position for Dec. 3.

Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]