By CARL SMITH
and STEVEN NALLEY
Potential county lake lease suitors will have until next month to present bids to the Oktibbeha County School Board.
The school board voted Monday to extend the lease proposal deadline to July 31 and re-advertise bids following a recommendation from the Secretary of Stateâs office.
16th Section Land Manager Mike Ainsworth said only one proposal made it in before the previously set May 7 deadline, and one proposal came in late, rendering it invalid.
Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors President Marvell Howard also presented a plan during Mondayâs separate public hearing in which the county would take over the day-to-day operation of the property and its associated lease.
Under Howardâs plan, an estimated $85,000 worth of tax dollars would be used to secure the 407-acre lease and hire one full-time employee to maintain the property. The employeeâs salary would start at $30,000, but insurance and social security costs would push the figure to $43,680.
The county would also need to take out $1 million in liability insurance.
âWeâve got four options: We can do nothing and lock the gates â thatâs off the table; the school board can operate it; we can hope a proposal will come in thatâs agreeable to this board and benefits the citizens and school board â weâre hopeful for this; or we can do this âin-caseâ option,â Howard said during the boardâs public hearing on the matter. âThe bottom line is a locked up county lake isnât good for anyone. Weâre trying to work through the problem and get direction. I think the consensus is to keep the county lake public.â
An overwhelming majority of the 50-plus audience in attendance for Mondayâs public hearing agreed with Howard by showing support for a publicly accessible county lake. Many in attendance said the county should try to coax the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks â the previous lease holder â back to the negotiating table and share property expenses with the organization while it maintains the level of control it once had. Citizens also suggested challenging the county lakeâs recent reappraisal â almost $100 per acreÂ â by securing an outside appraiser. Howard said the appraisal, which was approved by the Secretary of Stateâs office, could be changed if an outside source developed a different price per acre and substantiated it enough for that officeâs approval.
At the end of the hearing, Howard said the board would sit back and see how many and what kind of proposals the school board received before taking any action on the matter.
Before the school board approved its action, Ainsworth also said Clyde Pritchard of Pritchard Engineering conducted a survey of the land to ascertain the 16th sectionâs southeast corner. This cornerâs location had never been established before, he said, and as a result, it was uncertain whether the spillway controlling the lakeâs water level was inside or outside the 16th sectionâs borders.
If the spillway was inside the borders, the OCSD would be responsible for it, Ainsworth said. However, it turned out to be outside the borders, he said, so it falls under the supervisorsâ purview.
âWithout having a survey, we would not know that,â Ainsworth said.
The board has set a July 1 deadline for the MWFPD to remove all of its improvements to the lake before those improvements become OCSD property, and Ainsworth said it is important to wait until after this deadline to begin evaluating proposals. In a related matter, Ainsworth said there are two RVs still parked on the property, costing the OCSD money for electricity and water. Bennie Jones, OCSD attorney, said the county would take action against the trespassers.
âThe sheriff is aware of whatâs going on,â Jones said. âWe are working on getting them removed.â