Leflore County supervisors vote for audit of business incubator

Published 8:11 pm Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Some Leflore County officials want state auditors to examine the finances of the county’s business incubator — a $1.7 million project that was designed to nurture startup businesses but has not paid its own rent in nearly a year.

The incubator, officially called the Business and Manufacturing Development Center, helps new businesses get started by offering a way to reduce office and other overhead costs. Grants from a variety of sources paid for its creation.

The problem is, the incubator’s management, Three Rivers Community and Economic Development Corporation, allegedly has not paid its own rent since March, officials said. And the organization hasn’t forwarded its tenants’ rent since September.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

This week, the Leflore County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to request the state auditors office perform an audit.

Supervisors Wayne Self, Phil Wolfe and Robert Collins voted for the audit. Supervisors Robert Moore and Preston Ratliff voted against such a request.

Moore was the director of the Mississippi Valley State University Center for Economic Development in the mid-1990s. Moore and the university were backers of the project.

Moore said the county was overstepping its authority by asking for the audit because the $173,000 grant that the incubator ran on for its first year did not come through the county.

Ratliff said Three Rivers had not fulfilled contractual obligations like paving the parking lot, but he still voted against asking the state to audit the incubator.

Three Rivers stopped managing the 23,000-square-foot facility when its two-year contract with Leflore County expired Dec. 1, 2007.

County Administrator Sam Abraham and Self said they had been in contact with Deirdre Mayes, a part-time bookkeeper for Three Rivers who is also Greenwood’s city clerk. They said Mayes assured them the payments would come in by Wednesday.

“How long does it take to cut a check?” Collins said.

Collins called for the board to take legal action to collect the rent if it is not paid by next Monday.

The board will hold a special meeting at 4 p.m. Monday to discuss the future management of the incubator.