Commission aims to improve county Multi-Use Facility

Published 5:00 am Thursday, September 7, 2006

As the county considers sole funding for the Lincoln CountyMulti-Use Facility for the first time, plans to make itself-sustaining are nearly in place, an official said Tuesday.

Pat McCullough, chairman of the Lincoln County Multi-UseFacility Commission, provided supervisors with its first quarterlyreport during the county board’s regular meeting. McCullough alsomade the commission’s first budget request.

The commission has met weekly since it was appointed June 8.

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Since that time, McCullough said, commission workers haveresearched similar operations in other counties to determine whatwas working for them and what wasn’t. They have also inspected thefacility and targeted areas that needed repair or renovation whilemaking plans to expand the facility to make it more functional.

“It didn’t take long to determine it had been treated like ared-headed stepchild,” McCullough said. “I’ve talked to Terry Reid(director of the Brookhaven Department of Recreation) and he saidit had always been treated as a secondary operation.”

The county opted earlier this year to purchase the city’s rights tothe facility. The buyout was prompted when the city’s recreationdepartment elected to pull out of managing it because it was aburden on its personnel and a drain on the department’sresources.

The move forced city aldermen and county supervisors to considernew management options. Leaders then agreed on the buyout plan.

The facility had not been self-sustaining since it was built, butsupervisors believed with proper management it could be – and itwas too vital a resource to lose.

McCullough agreed, but said that realistically supervisors mustrealize there are some major obstacles to be overcome for thefacility to become the popular draw it can be.

“There are some uphill battles with this thing,” he said. “It hassome downsides. It’s located in absolutely the worst locationpossible.”

The commission chairman said a lack of fast food restaurants,lodging and easy access from a highway or interstate all hurt thefacility’s potential for growth. He said visitors to events firsthave to search for the facility and then have to search for foodand lodging.

“We need to get busy then and make it an attractive place forthem,” said District Two Supervisor Bobby Watts, referring torecruiting those types of businesses to Beltline Road.

McCullough said the commission has also reviewed and revised therental policies and pricing. Many events sponsored by such agenciesas the Alcorn State University Extension Service will no longer befree, he said.

“Unless it’s a benefit to the people of Lincoln County, it won’t beon (the free list),” McCullough said. “This is now a commercialenterprise which also benefits the people of Lincoln County.”

However, he said, rental pricing has been separated into threebrackets to provide discounts to some agencies. Charitableorganizations will pay much less than commercial enterprises.

McCullough also presented the board with the commission’s firstbudget request. The commission asked for nearly $168,000 infunding.

County Administrator David Fields said the board had allocated$150,000 in preliminary budgets. The final budget will be presentedduring a public hearing Sept. 13 at 9 a.m. in the countyboardroom.

The commission’s request is based on previous expenses andreceipts, McCullough said, but it also includes the salary for amanager and two other facility employees, who should be hired soon,and $25,000 for a capital improvement project.

The project would add approximately 20 camper hookups to on-siteutilities for a fee of around $25 a night, he said. Sewer isalready available and hookups for water and electricity are closeby. The hookups would be created in an area north of the arena.