SMPDD plans to continue work on economic development council

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Monday, the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors became hopeful that efforts to establish an economic development council were not done in vain.

Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District Senior Project Manager Lindsay Ward spoke to the Board about establishing a timeline to form the council.

Ward said she met with members of the Poplarville Board of Aldermen, who expressed a desire to move forward with the project.

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“The Board needs to make a decision to take proper actions, or some actions, to guarantee a stable funding source,” Board Vice President Hudson Holliday said. “I might be wrong about politics, but I’ve seen it happen here before.”

Ward said she would schedule a meeting within the next two weeks between the original ambassador members who began the project to decide a course of action. Then, she would organize a workshop between the Aldermen, Picayune City Council and the Board.

“I want to build on this existing momentum because I don’t want to let this die,” Ward said.

Before an executive director is hired, the organization needs to be established so that funding can be collected through public and private donations, Ward said.

However, in order to secure a stable funding source, the Board could seek legislative approval to establish a public-private partnership or create a one percent sales tax on prepared foods and lodging.

SMPDD Executive Director Leonard Bentz recommended the Board begin discussions with the legislature sooner rather than later.

In other SMPDD matters, Bentz requested a reduction in funding for the next fiscal year of about $18,000.

Bentz said the citizens of Pearl River County are now paying the actual cost to run SMPDD’s programs.

For the fiscal year of 2016, Bentz said the county saw a $1.66 million impact for its $80,000 in matched funds through programs like economic development, state contracts and municipal financing.

In a separate matter, the Board heard a request for funding from South Mississippi Children’s Center program director Annie Jackson.

Jackson requested $2,000 in funding for the next fiscal year to help service the children’s shelter in Hattiesburg.

The shelter serves about 150 children a year, normally on a short-term basis, who have been physically or sexually abused, neglected or homeless. About a dozen of those children come from Pearl River County, she said.

Each child is ensured medical care while in the shelter’s custody and the family is notified. Only in the event of abuse will law enforcement or child protective services be notified, Jackson said.

In most cases where a child has run away from home, the shelter staff work with the family to solve issues and work with other agencies to provide the resources they need to remain a family, she said.

Jackson said the Board has supported the shelter in the past and requested those donations resume in the next fiscal year.

In other news, the Board:

-Set a public hearing for Sept. 5 to discuss a automotive repair business on Ceasar Road that is in violation of the county junkyard ordinance.

-Approved the purchase of five new tractors for the county road department.

-Heard an update about the county records scanning project from Chancery Clerk Melinda Bowman who said the records would soon be searchable from the Internet.

-Appointed Tabatha Butler to replace Dr. James Sones on the Pearl River County Utility Authority Board of Trustees.

The Board will meet again on August 23 at 9 a.m.

About Julia Arenstam

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