Supes discuss economic development partnership

By Amanda McBride The Choctaw Plaindealer

Funding for the proposed economic development partnership is up in the air after the December 10 Choctaw County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Choctaw County along with Montgomery, Webster and Carroll Counties are planning to join together to establish the Regional Economic Partnership of Mississippi. To join this partnership each county must pay $40,000 each year to fund the partnership.

The Choctaw County Economic Development District (CCEDD) previously approved to fund the $40,000 for one year for Choctaw County to join the partnership.

When the interlocal agreement, to establish the partnership, was brought up for review in the supervisor meeting, Steve Wright, board attorney, said the agreement is legal and that he recommends the county have the funds in hand before approving the agreement.

Once the county approves the agreement, they are responsible for the $40,000 whether it comes from the county budget or from the CCEDD.

Ron Bennett, president of the Choctaw County Economic Development District and Foundation, said their board has already approved to pay the $40,000. The district cannot make a direct contribution to the county but the foundation can make a donation to the county.

This spurred a discussion on how the CCEDD will pay for the yearly $40,000 and if the partnership will benefit Choctaw County.

Ben Tharp, who is on the district and foundation boards, said he was not on the district board when they approved to fund the partnership but wanted to know if the county would have the funds for the partnership next year.

District 1 Supervisor Archie Collins said he thought the district approved to fund the partnership every year.

Joe Gurley, who is on the district and foundation boards, said they only approved to fund it for one year.

Once the county enters into the partnership, it will automatically renew every year unless the county gives all members of the partnership a written notice of their withdrawal.

Mike Thomas asked the supervisors how the other counties plan to fund the partnership.

McIntire said Webster will fund it with millage and the other counties will fund the partnership with funds similar to Choctaw County’s economic development.

Thomas also asked what happens if fly ash sales drop. The CCEDD is funded with sales of fly ash.

Tharp also said in the supervisors’ meeting that he is concerned with how the partnership will benefit Choctaw County.

McIntire said, “Bottom line, this is to help our region,” after explaining how an industry in the other partnership counties will benefit Choctaw County with jobs in the area.

District 5 Supervisor Eric Chambers said he supports the partnership if “it is not a tax burden on the county.” He is also concerned with mutual agreement according to the agreement and Mississippi Code.

Bennett said he would call a special call meeting of the CCEDD and foundation to discuss funding the partnership before the next supervisors meeting on December 28.

The Board of Supervisors took no action on the agreement in this meeting.