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Howard seeks public input on lake lease

May 21, 2012

Marvell Howard

Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors President Marvell Howard says public discussion on the vacant county lake lease is needed to gather input from local citizens.
Howard said he will ask the board to set a time and date for such a discussion during the board’s 5:30 p.m. meeting Monday at the county courthouse.
Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks officials vacated the agency’s facilities located at the Oktibbeha County Lake campgrounds after the organization declined to renew its 16th section recreational land lease with the county school board following a reappraisal of the land’s value by the secretary of state’s office.
The entire 16th section’s 642.52 acres, including the 407 acres of lake and campground facilities involved in the MDWFP lease, were reappraised at $100 per acre. MDWFP last held a 25-year lease which stipulated a $2,500 minimum annual payment.
County school board members formally accepted MDWFP’s decision May 7 and held a work session with supervisors prior to its first monthly meeting. The school board is currently accepting lease proposals for the property, but no deadline for proposals was set at its previous meeting.
Mike Ainsworth, a 16th section land manager, said the board can accept the highest and “best-use” proposal.
Howard said county residents should have a say in the lake’s future because its construction was funded by taxpayers.
“We’ve got to have public discourse to have some kind of guidance,” he said. “Also, we want to get the accurate story out there as to what’s happening at the lake. People don’t really know the situation. Some folks think the board of supervisors has a say about the lake, and some think the school board doesn’t want to negotiate a deal. I want to get the accurate story out there as from the secretary of state’s standpoint.”
During the work session between the two boards, supervisors voiced concerns over the possibility of an individual or entity turning the lake into private property. After the work session, District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery said the lake needs to remain open to Oktibbeha County citizens no matter who holds the lease.
“That’s our county lake; that’s where people go to spend their weekends, fish and camp. It’s almost become a tradition in a sense,” he said May 7. “Bottom line: It needs to be a public lake.”
In other business, Golden Triangle Planning Development District Executive Director Rudy Johnson said he will be present at Monday’s meeting to answer questions about his organization’s development of a county comprehensive plan. The development of a comprehensive plan and county 911 readdressing was contracted to the GTPDD in 2009.
In a letter to the editor in Wednesday’s edition of Starkville Daily News, Roy Montgomery, a spokesperson for the Oktibbeha County Land Use Coalition who is scheduled for discussion time during Monday’s meeting, questioned the comprehensive plan’s timeline for completion.
“According to the contract (issued in 2009), that work was to be completed by Sept. 30, 2009,” Montgomery said in his letter. “The bottom line is that we, as taxpayers, have a right to expect the supervisors to honor the measures they vote for and to spend our money prudently. We also have a right to expect that the contracts they issue on our behalf be issued through a competitive process and completed in a timely manner.”
During the previous board term, supervisors said the contract’s 2009 completion date was listed erroneously.
“We’re pretty much waiting on the GTPDD to complete the plan. They’ve finished base mapping and the readdressing portion,” Howard said.

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