Supervisor angles for money for rural parks

COLUMBUS — Lowndes County District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks was hoping to prove a point in opposing a resolution, but his protest didn’t go far.

Brooks was initially the lone opposing vote on a resolution to ask state lawmakers to grant Lowndes County an additional 10 years to pay back a $13 million U.S. Department of Agriculture loan. But the Columbus dispatch reports just moments after the supervisors adjourned their meeting, the board reconvened so Brooks could reverse his vote.

Brooks said afterward that it was never his intention to kill the resolution. He just wanted to bring forward that community development is also needed.

The USDA loan is intended to purchase a piece of land south of Mims Road near the Golden Triangle Global Industrial Aerospace Park to attract industry. A separate $17 million half-and-half loan/grant from the USDA is currently being used to develop the land.

To receive permission from the state Legislature to extend the repayment period on the $13 million loan from 20 to 30 years — a savings of $225,000 per year to the county — county officials knew they likely needed an unanimous vote from the board to demonstrate unity.

Brooks seized the opportunity to bring attention to a need for recreation funding in Artesia and Crawford. Artesia is in Brooks’ district. Crawford is in District 4, Supervisor Jeff Smith’s district. Brooks proposed taking $200,000 from the $3 million budgeted for a new Justice Court building to give both communities $100,000 for recreation without increasing spending.

Brooks said his balk on the loan resolution was intended to leverage further discussion on how $4.8 million in hospital interest money would be spent around the county. The county has been accruing interest on the $30 million sale of Baptist Memorial HospitalGolden Triangle in 2006. Smith had originally committed to vote “no” along with Brooks to better force the issue, but Smith “kind of ran from under me,” Brooks said.

Thursday morning, Smith said he voted in favor of moving forward with the resolution to meet time constraints.

A package will be prepared for Rep. Gary Chism, R-Columbus, and Sen. Terry Brown, R-Columbus, containing a letter from Sanders explaining the board’s decision and intentions along with maps and plans to be taken to Jackson so they can begin the process of moving the resolution through House and Senate committees when the Legislature convenes, on Tuesday. Brooks had hoped to stall the resolution to force further discussion of county projects. He said the information still would have been provided to Chism and Brown in time.

The Associated Press