Lafayette board funds $4.5M facility

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal Oxford Bureau

OXFORD – Lafayette County supervisors voted 3-2 Monday to appropriate $4.5 million to construct a multipurpose building.
Board President Lloyd Oliphant’s motion drew fire as premature.
“Do we have any cost estimates? I haven’t seen any,” District 1 Supervisor Mike Pickens said.
Oliphant insisted Pickens had been shown the preliminary plans and estimates.
Chancery Clerk Sherry Wall said she didn’t remember them but that “my memory might be bad.”
District 2 Supervisor Johnny Morgan added, “We did those cost estimates three years ago.”
After the verbal wrestling, Oliphant, Morgan and District 5 Supervisor Ray Sockwell – each of whom was defeated for re-election in the August primary – voted to earmark the funds. District 1 Supervisor Mike Pickens and District 3 Supervisor Robert Blackmon, both of whom face general-election opponents – voted against the measure.
Oliphant said the board had appropriated the funds during its budget planning this summer.
“This is not something that can’t be undone, of course, by another board,” he said. “But it sends a message; it lets the people who’ve done so much work know that they’ve been heard.”
Jeff Busby, who will take the District 2 supervisor seat in January, said he was astounded at the board’s action.
“I don’t understand what we’re spending $4.5 million for, because I have yet to see any plans, where it’s going to be, how big it’s going to be,” he said. “I’m not saying I’d be against the project, but I don’t have any information.”
While the new board can vote to reverse the appropriation, Busby said the action is calculated to paint them into a corner.
“It makes us look like the bad guys,” he said.
errol.castens@journalinc.com