Ackerman considering land swap with CCSD

By Chuck Bailey
The Choctaw Plaindealer

Ackerman Mayor, Dick Cain, asked the Ackerman Board of Aldermen to consider the possibility of swapping Glasgow Park for the Ackerman High School Football Field during the new business portion of their meeting Tuesday, March 1.

“The school (Choctaw County School District, CCSD) has contacted us again that they want to swap some land for the park (Glasgow) to construct a football stadium and as part of the deal that they construct us two to three 11 to 12 year old baseball fields down at the football field,” announced Mayor Cain. “My opinion is we don’t need to see the school leave the city. Every time they have a ballgame here it brings people into our city that buy food and gas and I would just hate to see the school leave and go out in the country somewhere and build another high school. I think we need to do whatever we can to help them stay here.”

“It’s not going to cost us anything,” questioned Ward 3 Alderman George Rooks.

“It won’t cost us anything, that was the stipulation I gave to them,” said Cain
“Can we get that in writing,” asked Rooks.

“I don’t have anything yet,” said the Mayor. “We are just discussing it. We won’t do anything until we do (have it in writing).”

Ackerman City Attorney Kevin Null, who is also the Choctaw County School Board Attorney, stated that under statue the City of Ackerman could not relinquish any city property unless the State Legislature approves it.

“I would like to suggest that this is really important to the town to get this right,” said Ward 4 Alderman Billy Ganann. “We really need to see what the school (CCSD) actually has planned or the part that would impact at least the town. We need to look at how many 11 and 12 year old fields we need and be sure we don’t need a six year old field or more of one than the other. We really need some of us to get together with the school board and not make a real hasty decision about this and whether or not the football field is the place to put this. There are some other options. My concerns are about the parking at the football field now, as a reason the school needs to move it. It might be a problem for parking down here (Glasgow Park) too. We need to make sure we come up with the best use for the football field and that the park can handle what they (CCSD) want to do.”

The land by the community center was brought up as an option. Mayor Cain said he had made that suggestion and CCSD did not seem interested. It is also out of the city limits.

They also brought up the fact that Ackerman could host baseball tournaments. Again, the parking issue came up.

“The main thing I wanted to get from you tonight is if you are interested in doing this,” said Cain. “I don’t want to work all this up and then you decide you don’t want to do it. It is my understanding too, that you as a board would have to be unanimous in making a motion to do that. But we are a long ways from doing anything yet. I just wanted to get your opinion and see if you wanted to go forward with it.”

“I want more information,” said Ganann

Eventually everyone agreed in kind to proceed.

We reported in our February 10, 2016 edition that the Choctaw County School Board had approved a motion during a special called meeting November 30, 2015 to enter into a contract with Sandra Bruner of Oxford to purchase 91.5 acres at the Southwest corner of Highway 9 and 415 just north of the Ackerman city limits for $3,000 dollars per acre and employ Crowder Engineering to survey the property.

Concerned citizens came to the regularly scheduled meeting of the CCSB Monday, December 14, 2015 and presented the board with a copy of Mississippi Code Ann. 37-7-301(aa).

The code basically states to acquire land for a public school building or structure when the purchase price is over $50,000 dollars, the school board shall not purchase the property for an amount exceeding the fair market value of such property as determined by the average of at least two independent appraisals.

Up until then the board only had one appraisal and it had come in at around $1600 dollars per acre. Since then the board has secured another appraisal and supposedly it has come in at about $400 dollars less per acre.

Needless to say, the CCSB rescinded its motions it made in the November 30, 2015 special meeting concerning the Bruner property at its regular monthly meeting Monday, February 8, 2016.

It appears there have been special circumstances where Code 37-7-301(aa) has been lifted and school boards have been allowed to pay more than code allows for property. Jim Keith an attorney for the CCSB brought this to the attention of the board.

A motion was then made by Mike Thomas and seconded by Linda McDaniel to get Jim Keith to set up an audience with the state Auditors Office to see if the Bruner property meets those special circumstances.

The day we interviewed Choctaw County School Superintendent, Glen Beard, Jr., he stated they were still looking at that option, but that the land swap with the city had a lot of merits.

“It is all real preliminary right now. We are still trying to get surveys from the architect, said Beard. “We don’t know about the parking. Even if we get it all together soon, we will still be playing football where we are now next year. My main concern is about moving this district forward and our main business of improving kids,” he continued.

“Again, we are exploring all options and not rushing into anything.”

We will have more to come as this story develops.

After the honorable Justice Court Judge Andy Stephenson swore in newly elected Alderperson Felecia Miller-Baber. The new Board of Aldermen got down to business.

After unanimous motions in favor of approving the agenda, minutes and accounts; Mayor Cain asked if there was any old business that the board needed to discuss and there was none.

The meeting then went into new business.

A motion was made to grant Joe Mathis an exception (R2) for a Mobile Home by Ward 2 Alderman Tommy Curtis. Rooks seconded it and the board passed it unanimously.

A motion was made by George Rooks to allocate $1,000 dollars for the Pine Tree Music Festival. It was seconded Alderman at Large Carl “Burney” Phelps and the board passed it unanimously.

A motion was made by Tommy Curtis to approve payment of the Election Commissioners and Poll Workers for the Special Election held to elect a new Alderperson from Ward 1. It was seconded Phelps and the board passed it unanimously.

Under airport business the following motion was made by Billy Ganann to declare Gradie Ervin’s seat on the board vacant and appoint Ken Payne for his seat and to reappoint Alan Hovis. Phelps seconded it and the board passed it unanimously.

A motion was made by Ganann to delete two shotguns from police inventory and to transfer them to the Sturgis Police Department. Phelps seconded it and the board passed it unanimously.

A motion was made by Tommy Curtis to approve the travel of Public Works Director, Mike Brasher, to the 2016 Annual Management & Technology Conference and Exhibition in Jackson, March 28th through 31st. Phelps seconded it and the board passed it unanimously.

Under Department Head Reports, Mike Brasher reported that he had been working most of the month with RG3 installing the new water meters and that they were through installing meters with the exception of the ones that he wanted to install himself, approximately 70 meters, that were not in the contract with RG3 to install.

He also reported the new water plant should be open by the end of May.

He ordered new nets for the baseball fields.

Ganann questioned whether the contract for the water plant included a new fence around it and Brasher confirmed that it did include a new fence.

Police Chief Kevin Stark reported that as of February 22, 2016 the Bulletproof Vest Partnership had approved funding for vests for his department and that the city should receive those funds any day now.

He is also working on donation money to buy six-body cameras at a cost of around $2,500 dollars. He stated there would be no cost to the town.

Fire Chief Billy Stricklin reported that the Fire department had two calls for the month of February.

The department applied for a grant back in 2015 and it had come in to buy miscellaneous equipment with.

He also reported that the grant for the Jaws of Life had not been granted to his department, but that he would reapply for 2017.

A workday has been set for March 12 to do some painting at the firehouses.

A motion was then made by Billy Ganann to adjourn the meeting until Tuesday, April 5, 2016. Phelps seconded it and the board passed it unanimously.