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Public hearing on lake situation set today

June 4, 2012

The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the vacated county lake lease 6 p.m. Monday at the courthouse.

During the supervisors’ last meeting, board President Marvell Howard said members of the public concerned about the lake’s future should have an opportunity to voice their opinion to area leaders.

Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks officials vacated the organization’s lakeside facilities in April after the group declined to renew its 407-acre lease of the county lake area once the land reappraised for approximately $100 per acre. The previous 25-year lease mandated a $2,500-minimum payment to the county school board. Currently, the entire 642-acre 16th section is open for lease proposals. County school board officials have yet to set a deadline for proposals.

Control of the lake property reverted back to the county school board once the lease was vacated, and officials have padlocked entrances to the area. The school board is accepting lease proposals for the lake area, but no official deadline was set for the process.

In anticipation of that Monday’s hearing, Howard previously said he would explore solutions which could allow the county to maintain the lake’s day-to-day operations while the school board receives funding for the area’s lease. On Saturday, Howard said he believes the school board has received few proposals.

“We need to get input from Oktibbeha County citizens and have them offer some sort of direction as to where they want the board to go in case the school board doesn’t receive the proper proposals,” he said.

Supervisors expressed concerns over keeping the lake open to the public during a May work session with county school board trustees. Howard and other supervisors say they’d like to see the lake property remain open to the public since public funding was used to create the lake.

District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said the school board could use covenants in a potential lease to keep the lake area open to all county residents.

“The current situation (a closed county lake) is not good for the county. Things could get sticky if someone leases the lake who wants to make it private,” Trainer said. “At the very least, provisions can be made in a lease to say the lake has to be available to county citizens. If someone accepts that, I think everything is solved.

“I’m going to support Marvell’s ideas (for the county lake),” Trainer added. “This is a passionate issue for him.”

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