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Lawrence County exits water park operations

MONTICELLO — The Lawrence County Board of Supervisors votedMonday to withdraw from the entity that operates the county’s waterparks.

The withdrawal left it open to negotiation as to whichgovernmental entity would take control of the water park.

“It’ll stay open. There’s no doubt of that, even if they have torun it themselves,” said Calvin Fortenberry, board president, ofthe Atwood Water Park.

The contractual agreement the county had with the Pearl RiverBasin Development District gave the county only a small window ofopportunity to withdraw, Fortenberry said.

The district was first notified of the county’s intent on March4 and since that time the county has met their indebtedness to thedistrict. They had until June 30 to pay the district $34,653.60 tocover their portion of the district’s indebtedness.

Fortenberry said withdrawing from the district will save thecounty $15,000 in annual fees.

The county expected to receive most of that money back “in kind”with improvements to the park or in returns to the county so thatthey could make those improvements. The amount they were gettingback was decreasing, Fortenberry said, and they were not seeing anybenefit.

The county was initially the entity in charge of the park’soperation, but in the early 1980s they returned control to thedistrict. Monticello began leasing the park shortly thereafter oncethe city limits were extended to include the park.

Mayor David Nichols said the county’s withdrawal will not effectupcoming or annual events held at the park, because of an agreementbetween the city and the district. The city currently leasesoperational control of the park from the district.

The board of supervisors will meet with a district propertycommittee to determine how to handle their withdrawal. The boardbriefly discussed buying or leasing the park.

The withdrawal also affects operations at Wanilla Water Park.Beat 2 Supervisor Billy Joe Boutwell said he already fullymaintains that park and doesn’t expect that to change.

Wanilla Water Park was closed in the late ’80s in an agreementbetween the county and district, he said. The county made aseparate agreement with the district in the early ’90s to reopenit. That agreement should still be valid, Boutwell said.

In other matters, County Agent John Kilgore briefed the board onthe local changes resulting from the statewide reorganization ofthe Extension Service. The reconstruction went into effect July1.

“Things in Lawrence County will be clicking on essentially likethey were before,” Kilgore said.

The staff will remain the same, he said. The only “real change”is the addition of area agents, who will be supplying additionalsupport, he said, by giving supervisors a direct avenue to posequestions in areas he is not well-versed in.

Kilgore also informed the supervisors that the reorganizationdid not take away their 4-H county director position, but that itdoes remain vacant.

“It doesn’t require a college degree, although it does require ahigh school diploma,” Kilgore said. “They usually like to hiresomeone native to the area for those positions.”

Paul McLain, director of the county’s Community DevelopmentAssociation, informed supervisors of a new grant opportunityannounced by Gov. Ronnie Musgrove last week. The opportunity isavailable to the 45 counties that fall under the newly-formed DeltaRegional Authority.

“With that many counties involved, (the money is) obviously notgoing to go as far as we would like it to,” McLain said.

The DRA received $4.1 million to divide among applicants who areapplying for public or transportation infrastructure, businessdevelopment or job training and employment.

“I wanted to bring this to your attention, but time is veryshort,” McLain said, noting that a late July deadline was set forapplications.

The board discussed applying for money for a “spec” building,which are built in the hopes of attracting industry.