By PAUL SIMS
The proposal to divide the county among six state House members could negatively impact economic development work and weaken Starkville’s voice in Jackson, community leaders say.
The latest round of opposition could come from Starkville’s Board of Aldermen tonight.
In speaking at Monday’s Oktibbeha County Economic Development Authority meeting, Mayor Parker Wiseman said the board will consider a measure against the plan because it negatively impacts Starkville’s interests.
Wiseman expounded on his study of the proposal Monday night by taking a closer look at one particular precinct – West Starkville, divided four ways under the plan.
“You very quickly run into a scenario where you’ve got one side of the street voting for a district that may stretch all the way into Calhoun County, and another side of the street may be voting for a district that stretches all the way to the Alabama state line,” Wiseman said. “The practical effect of this is it greatly dilutes the voting strength of this community in any one of those districts.”
OCEDA board member Bobby McClelland, who lives in the Sturgis area, said, “Oktibbeha County can forget about electing anybody as diluted as this is.”
“And it’s certainly not meant as a slight to any one of those representatives. It doesn’t serve them very well to have a district that’s so spread out either,” said Wiseman.
The plan’s final outcome could put strain on economic development efforts, officials say.
Referring to the plan as it’s currently drawn, Greater Starkville Development Partnership President and CEO Jon Maynard said, “It changes the dynamics of how we work with our legislative team. Our hopes are to maintain constant contact so that Starkville and Oktibbeha County don’t fall through the cracks.”
One key point outlined in material sent out to GSDP members is districts spread across several counties could include communities competing for the same economic development projects.
The plan as it was originally drafted died in a state Senate committee March 8. House lawmakers are expected to prepare an alternative plan this week.
In a separate matter, the OCEDA Board agreed to use approximately $452,000 from a reserve account to fund about $250,000 in previous commitments and around $200,000 in additional spending. OCEDA President Jack Wallace says he will return to the board with proposals to borrow $250,000 from local banks to replenish the reserve fund by this amount.
The overall spending includes plans to paint the GSDP building’s exterior, fund project incentives and pay for interior and exterior renovations to the multi-tenant building in the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park.