Shelton builds goodwill with Lee County supervisors

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By Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Members of the Lee County Board of Supervisors formally learned this morning that they have a friend in Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton.

Shelton addressed the supervisors with comments indicating his spirit of shared partnership between the two local governments.

“I’m really committed to the process of working with the Board of Supervisors, the sheriff’s department,” Shelton said. “We’re all on the same boat, Tupelo and Lee County.”

Before Shelton spoke to the board, he sat in the audience next to Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson, who attended in July the first Tupelo City Council meeting under Shelton’s administration.

While no specifics were discussed today, Shelton, Johnson, board president Bobby Smith and other city and county officials have discussed revisiting conversations for a shared county and city law enforcement facility.

Leaders of both the Tupelo Police Department and the Lee County Sheriff’s departments have voiced intentions for pursue new facilities. Plans for a shared facility were discussed during former Mayor Jack Reed Jr.’s administration but were later dropped.

Even before Shelton took office, he voiced interest in considering shared facilities.

Smith said no specific discussions about shared facilities have taken place but Shelton’s appearance today was a good sign.

“I think this had to be the first step to get there,” Smith said.

Lee County Supervisors and officials from the city of Tupelo ended in August 2012 a costly and lengthy legal battle related to the city’s successful attempt to bring about 3,100 new residents inside Tupelo city limits.

Supervisor Phil Morgan of District 1 mentioned briefly mentioned to Shelton the ongoing issue between the city and county volunteer fire departments. Areas annexed by the city now provide fire protection, while volunteer fire departments that covered the areas before the annexation continue to do so, along with continuing to assess a volunteer fire department tax to new city residents.

Morgan said volunteer fire department commissioners seem ready to vote to remove the 4 mill tax for city residents recently annexed but would like to receive a one-time compensation from the city to help make up for the lost revenue to volunteer fire departments from the annexation.

Morgan acknowledges the county has no legal way to enforce the request but hopes Shelton, an attorney who represented the town of Plantersville during the annexation trial, would support the request.

After the meeting, Shelton wouldn’t say directly whether he supported giving city tax dollars to the volunteer fire departments.

“It isn’t a matter of being for or against,” he said. “It is something to look at and do what is in the best interest of the citizens.”

robbie.ward@journalinc.com