Agri-Center asks board for increase in funding

TUPELO – Lee County’s Agri-Center in Verona needs more complete financial support or it must close, supervisors heard Tuesday.
The facility’s state of deterioration has already cost the county next year’s 4-H horse show, said Belvia Giachelli, Lee County’s 4-H agent.
“It’s going to Starkville,” she told the Lee County Board of Supervisors as she reported on the success of this year’s horse show this past weekend.
Julie Viator, the recently hired center director, said she, volunteers and part-time county help are doing what they can to bring the facility out of severe disrepair.
“But we don’t have the capabilities to keep up with things,” she said.
Darrell Rankin, board president, asked Viator to give the supervisors a prioritized list of what needs to be done.
The facility, which opened in 1994 alongside U.S. Highway 145, generates about $212,000 annually but requires about $394,000 to run. The county has made up the difference.
When completed, it was the one of the state’s first major agricultural facilities. Its construction was supported by the county, the Community Development Foundation, the Tennessee Valley Authority, Mississippi State University and other groups.
District 5 Supervisor Joe McKinney expressed his support for the center but agreed with Viator about what is needed.
“We had good help for July 4th and 5th,” he told the board, “but it’s just not enough – it takes a lot of maintenance and a lot of cleaning.”
Giachelli described the facility as “nasty” and “dirty.”
Viator gained board approval for her recommendations for updated event contracts and fees, which she said are necessary to support the labor-intensive work they require.
“It’s inevitable that it’s going to cost money if we want the facility to succeed,” she said. “Or we just need to close the door.”
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.

Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal