Economic Development District says no to funding partnership

By Amanda McBride The Choctaw Plaindealer

The Choctaw County Economic Development District will not give the funds to Choctaw County to join the Regional Economic Partnership of Mississippi at this time.

The CCEDD Board of Trustees rescinded a motion, from their August 9 meeting, allowing the District to pay the required $40,000 to join the Partnership in their December 17 joint meeting with the Choctaw County Economic Development Foundation.

Ben Tharp, CCEDD trustee, made the motion to rescind the motion shortly after CCEDD President Ron Bennett opened the floor for questions. Tharp said when the District voted in August to fund the partnership, a contract had not been written yet and the current contract is too vague about how the funds will be used. He suggested looking at the Partnership again when there are more details. Joe Gurley, CCEDD trustee, quickly seconded the motion.

Minutes from the August 9 meeting states that Choctaw County requested the District to pay the dues ($40,000) for the first year. The minutes from that meeting reflect the following about the motion allowing the District to fund the partnership.

“Ron Bennett then made the motion to pass a resolution encouraging the Choctaw County Board of Supervisors to join the new regional economic development partnership and to pay the $40,000 in dues from District funds. Joe Gurley seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.”

A long discussion began, in the December 17 meeting, about equal representation on the Partnership boards, Nick Walters and Stone Adams Financial Partners role and how the partnership would benefit Choctaw County.

Bennett said that Walters’ and his firm, Stone Adams, are assisting the counties-which are Choctaw, Webster, Montgomery and Carroll Counties, in developing the interlocal agreement and organizing the partnership.

After the four counties approve the interlocal agreement, it then goes to the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office for approval.

District 3 Supervisor Chris McIntire, also board president, said during the meeting that the Partnership would benefit Choctaw County even if an industry does not choose to locate here. He explained that if the industry located in one of the other partnership counties that it would bring jobs within driving distance of Choctaw County and that would help our citizens. McIntire also said by joining with the other counties it would increase the number of state and federal politicians that could lobby for support if needed.

Many more questions were asked about the contract or interlocal agreement and how the partnership would be setup.

Stewart Edwards, CCEDD trustee, said he feels like the board is making “a decision on a moving target” and “I don’t hear passion for this” from other District board members.

“I don’t feel comfortable because I’m new to the District board) and don’t have a solid set of facts,” Edwards continued.

Bennett finally called for a vote on the motion and the board approved to rescind the motion allowing the District to pay $40,000 for the first year’s dues for the Partnership.

After more discussion of how the funds for the Partnership would be spent, Edwards made a motion to table the Partnership funding until January when more information can be presented with a second from Gradie Ervin, CCEDD trustee. It passed with a few votes against it.

The Choctaw County Board of Supervisors plans to discuss the proposed Regional Economic Partnership of Mississippi in their December 28 board meeting.