Three Rivers Planning and Development District is poised to take over operations at Elvis Presley Lake in Lee County, and the popular recreation site could open as early as the weekend.
The Lee County Board of Supervisors reached an accord Tuesday with the planning district and the Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District, the lake’s owner, to reopen the lake park. Tombigbee will supply the money to run the facilities.
Supervisors, who rejected a plan earlier this month for the county to operate the recreational site, must make the formal application to Tombigbee for release of the funds. However, the county will have no administrative responsibilities or liability for lake operations.
The pact must also get approval of the state attorney general.
“We’re faxing it to him (the attorney general) as we speak,” Tombigbee engineer Jimmy Mills said Tuesday afternoon. “We hope he will act on it very quickly.”
Under the agreement, the park would be open through Sept. 30. It would offer camping, picnicking, and boating and fishing facilities.
Only swimming would not be allowed. Although the lake was a popular spot for swimmers for many years, it was stopped recently because of liability concerns.
“Swimming went out with sovereign immunity (protection from lawsuits),” District 2 Supervisor Everett Swann noted.
Although the contract covers this summer only, Three Rivers spokesman Jay Blissard said the planning district hopes to continue the program in subsequent years.
Officials expect gate receipts and fees to bring in about $19,000 through the rest of the summer. The water district would supply up to an additional $51,000 – though only $37,730 is projected as needed – to offset total operations costs.
The city of Tupelo, which operated the lake park until last September, said the $100,000 annual subsidy required was excessive and opted to drop the operations to put the money into parks located inside the city.
The water district offered in early April to fund operations this year if the county would run the lake, but supervisors rejected the plan in a 3-2 vote, the majority citing liability and employment concerns.
“Both of those issues have been resolved,” County Administrator Ronnie Bell said. “(The lake) is a tremendous asset for Northeast Mississippi and Lee County. I think … it needs to be opened back up.”
“I got more telephone calls when we didn’t open it (earlier) than I’ve ever gotten,”District 5 Supervisor Thomas Kennedy said. Kennedy and board President Billy Davis had voted to open it under the previous plan.
In other action, the board agreed to issue a franchise to Galaxy Cablevision of Sikeston, Mo., to run a cable television system currently operated by TCI of North Mississippi in northern Lee County and parts of adjacent counties.
Galaxy obtained the local system in a trade with TCI in which the latter gained an equal number of subscribers near Topeka, Kan. TCI said it is pulling out of Mississippi as it deals several systems in the state to other companies.
Bell said references offered by Galaxy provided mixed reviews about service.
But David Lusby, former area TCI general manager who will be joining Galaxy along with other area TCI employees, said the new company has vowed to maintain service at current or higher levels. The company is focusing on smaller markets and has acquired several systems recently.
“They’re growing fast. They’re a small company when compared to TCI, Time-Warner and those, but they’re planning on being a major player,” Lusby said of Galaxy.
The company’s area office will remain in Booneville. It will become the system’s state headquarters, Lusby said.