Golf course owner tells school board fees must be reduced

Published 3:13 pm Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One of the owners of the Pearl River Golf Club told school board members here on Monday that unless they reduced his 16th section land lease fees, he will go out of business. The golf club is located on 16th section school land.

“If you raise this lease, it will destroy us,” said Michael T. Lane, one of three owners of the club.

16th section land is set aside by the state to generate income for local schools. Each county in the state has 16th section land which the schools manage.

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Lane told the board that his lease payment was raised approximately $10,000, from $19,205 to $29,205, for 2010. Lane said he and his partners don’t have the funds to pay the bill.

The increase represents a 34 percent hike over last year’s bill.

He said the three owners who own the business had to borrow money to pay the 16th section land lease fees due last year.

The school board held out little hope for Lane and his partners.

Board president Todd M. “Chip” Nodruft told Lane the 16th section land fees are set by the Secretary of State’s office and that the charges are passed on to the 16th section land holders. “The problem is that we are not the final say-so on the lease; the Secretary of State’s office is. We are mandated to do certain things, and we must follow the law.

“We are basically managers of the property, but we don’t have the final say-so,” Nodruft said.

However, Superintendent Carl Merritt told Lane that he would visit him and that if Lane would draw up a proposal, Merritt would contact the Secretary of State’s office to determine what can be done.

The golf club is located at 33 South Valley Road, west of Poplarville off Mississippi Highway 26. Lane, along with his father and another person owns the company, Second Chance, under which the facility is operated.

He said after the meeting that the three owners acquired the company in a sheriff’s tax sale in 2003 for a quarter-million dollars. He said membership is down at the club because of the bad economy, and that his proposal will ask that fees be kept lower until the economy recovers.

“We operate a very clean establishment out here. We don’t serve any alcoholic beverages, the kids come out here for recreation, the elderly and a lot of other members. We have a family type atmosphere. It would be a great loss of a fine facility if we have to close,” said Lane. “All the schools have their tournaments there.”

The lease comes up for negotiation and possible adjustment every five years, Lane said.

He added, “We just pay so many taxes. We pay land taxes, IRS taxes, state taxes, federal taxes, school board charges; we are taxed to death; there really is not any money left over for the owners.”

In other matters, the board recognized the Poplarville High School Lady Hornets Slow Pitch Softball team for winning the class 4A state championship. The team was also named the state’s top overall team in all classifications by the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson.

The team has been honored by supervisors, the City of Poplarville and now the school board. Each member of the team on Monday night was presented a certificate of honor by the school board, expressing appreciation for the team’s accomplishment.

Said Nodruft in presenting the certificates: “These are not only gifted athletes, these are some of our best students academically, and some of our best well-rounded ladies in the school. Everyone here is very proud of what you all accomplished.”

Head coach Jonathan Ray said, “These girls are a testament to hard work, godly attitudes; you just can’t say enough about them. They will go far in life because of the moral character they have.”

Members of the team are Branda Northrop, Alyssa Graeter, Janessa Dedeaux, Ashton Rogers, Faith Campbell, Rachel Breland, Chelsey Barrett, Pepper Baker, Kayla Fendlason, Sam Gentry, Kayla Ross, Tori Fairchild, Rachel Hickman, Paige Miller, Nicole Smith, Kelly Ladner, Micah Davis and Miranda Fazende.

Team coaches besides Ray, include Drue Ross, Gary Malley and Chelley Carpenter, and student assistant Alexis Gupton.

In other matters, the board:

— Approved the 2009-10 Mississippi Local Education Agency Plan for highly qualified teachers.

— Approved the purchase of two buses.

— Approved personnel recommendations.

— Approved contracts involving 16 section lands 16-2-14, 16-3-15, 16-3-17, 16-3-14 and 16-1-15.

— Approved the consent agenda, which included approval of special services contracts, approval of out of state travel, an amendment to community therapy associates contract, amendment to Gaits to Success Agreement, approval to accept a donation to the school, approval to dispose of equipment, approval of school bus turnaround requests, approved the claim docket, payroll, financial statement, activity fund receipts, and minutes of the Oct. 12 regular board meeting.

— Went into executive session to discuss student matters.

— Adjourned to Dec. 8.