Clay County District 4 Supervisor Shelton Deanes had one simple suggestion Thursday for the Clay County Board of Supervisors – to plan financially right now for county improvements instead of waiting on money to come in before undertaking a project.
Deanes said for far too long the board has depended solely on the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District to find grants and other funds for county projects without much effort by supervisors to find funding. That has to change, said Deanes, who told the board they have a much higher chance at raking in more dollars for county improvement projects if each supervisor would also work to find funding.
Several improvements for the county has been discussed, he said, including making the new Henry Harris Administrative Building on Court Street more of a multi-functional facility. Right now the Henry Harris building serves as a voting precinct for District 4 and meeting place for the Clay County Election Commission, but Deanes said supervisors have talked about making the south end of the Henry Harris complex into a third courtroom for the county, utilizing upstairs space for offices, adding an elevator to the complex and moving the board’s meeting room to the Henry Harris facility, which Deanes said has ample space.
“Our courthouse is all jammed up, plus our boardroom is small,” Deanes said. “These are things I think we need to start looking at for the future instead of sitting and waiting until we get some money and then start planning. If you plan before you do something you know where your money is going, you know how you’re going to spend your money. It’s always some grant money and stuff coming up, but if you sit there you’re not going to be able to get the money. The money is going to go to other counties.”
One other idea is constructing more parking spaces around the Clay County Courthouse.
Deanes suggested that the board begin holding work sessions to iron out ideas for improvements to the county and to talk about how these projects will be paid for.
“There are so many things out there that can take place, but are we ready?” he asked. “All I’m saying is there are five men elected who sit around this table to run this county along with the chancery clerk, appointed counsel and sheriff elected. What we have to do is let the people know we want to make things better. We as a board, I don’t mean any harm, fellows, but we’re not doing what we need to be doing. There’s a lot we can be working on. We have our own schedules, we come to the meetings when we feel like it; we don’t feel like it, we don’t come. But we are employed to these people for four years. We need to give them four years.”
He said the money for these enhancements is not going to fall in the county’s lap; supervisors have to be willing to look for funding, he said.
District 2 Supervisor Luke Lummus said the majority of grants the county has received from GTPDD were only granted to the county due to the low to moderate income bracket of certain residents, who the money would benefit. Lummus said the board has attempted to secure other grants from the GTPPD but have not been able to because the people who would be affected by those grants were not in the low to moderate income bracket.
“A lot of that stuff we wanted to do we didn’t have the funds or we didn’t want to put the burden back on our taxpayers than what’s already on them now because of the decline of our real property,” Lummus said. “When our property value went down this year the monies that come into Clay County was less. That’s the reason we had to go up on our millage. We didn’t let anybody go, everybody still had their insurance; that’s a big plus because there were a lot of counties that had to let people go.”
Lummus said real and personal property taxes is what the county depends greatly on for revenue and said he is not in favor of imposing more taxes on citizens to finance future improvement projects.
“You take some people who are barely making it as they are,” he said. “I want to commend this board for making the steps and joining the Golden Triangle Development LINK. This is the best chances this year that we have ever had to represent Clay County and the city of West Point in an economic development arena...This team is a driving force, and it’s the best chance we will ever have. Shelton is right. We have to plan, but there’s a lot of factors that go into the reason we haven’t went further...I feel that I’ve done my job as far as representing the taxpayers in District 2, economizing, doing the best we can on what we have to work with because I’m not going to take a calling and cussing out because their property taxes went up when I have no effect in it.”
“When you raise the taxpayers’ taxes you raise everybody’s taxes in this board room,” Deanes said. “When you sit down and look at the whole picture if you don’t raise taxes and we don’t get jobs you’re going to have to raise taxes again next year. There’s no way around it. It’s sad, but sometimes you have to listen to the Blues. You have to be realistic about it. Sometimes you don’t want to play the Blues, but you have to face it.”
County Attorney Bob Marshall said East Mississippi Community College has a five year plan, which is in increments, and the plan is tweaked as situations change. He said a five year plan may be good for Clay County, and the county’s plan can also be adjusted to meet the changes that may come about in the county.
“It gives you a vision,” Marshall said. “If you get that one to five year plan implemented, then as money might start coming in you have something already in place that you want to use it for. You also have resources out there from consultants who do nothing but write grants and resources out there that can give you ideas on where the money is and what you need to do. I would think it would probably take some outside expertise to come in and lay that out.”