By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The fate of the ailing Lee County Agri-Center now rests in the hands of a nine-member committee appointed Monday by the Board of Supervisors.
Eight men and one woman will serve in an unpaid, volunteer capacity to study the perpetually cash-strapped facility and recommend solutions to keep it open and financially solvent.
Supervisors nominated the new committee’s members, each of whom previously had expressed interest in the Agri-Center, and unanimously approved them during a board meeting at the Lee County Justice Center.
“We’ll turn it over to them and let them come back to us with recommendations,” said supervisors President Phil Morgan.
The new committee is an outgrowth of a March 31 public meeting supervisors held to solicit ideas about the Agri-Center. About 200 people attended.
Built nearly two decades ago in Verona, the 150,000-square-foot Agri-Center has hosted rodeos, concerts, weddings, truck shows and carnivals. But it never has been profitable: It earns about $100,000 annually but requires double or triple that amount from county coffers to stay afloat.
The county put in $280,000 in the current fiscal year alone, and no one wants to impose a tax hike to continue that pattern.
After a string of directors – most of whom quit or resigned after just a few years on the job – the facility now runs with a skeleton crew and no direct oversight.
PHIL MORGAN, District 1
Mike Howell of Baldwyn
BOBBY SMITH, District 2
Helen Fleming of Tupelo
Rudy Dossett Jr. of Tupelo
DARRELL RANKIN, District 3
James Cook of Tupelo
Stuart Johnson of Tupelo
TOMMIE LEE IVY, District 4
Mike Witthauer of Shannon
Shelton Shannon of Plantersville
BILLY JOE HOLLAND, District 5
Mem Riley of Nettleton
Jesse Cornelius of Nettleton