Wildlife office ushered out by county board

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 15, 2009

In economic development, community officials usually bend overbackwards to entice an industry supplying up to 20 jobs to come totheir city or county.

It appears, though, that Lincoln County supervisors have donejust the opposite by choosing to not renew the MississippiDepartment of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks’ district office lease.With little apparent forethought, the board in January made thatdecision, and only after receiving a 1,200-signature petition froman outraged public did supervisors recently consider alternativesthat would allow the state agency to stay in Brookhaven.

Negotiations fell apart last week and it now looks as if thestate agency will be moving to a neighboring county at the end ofSeptember. In the discussions on the situation, supervisors wantedto halve the state agency’s space (with the remaining half to beused by the county tax office) and double its rent while DWF&Pwanted a five-year lease with the same space at the same rentamount.

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Supervisors could claim that state officials have been less thanagreeable to possible building renovation or office relocationsuggestions. However, it must be remembered that supervisors firstopened the door to the current difficulties with the surprisedecision in January to evict the state agency.

Furthermore, supervisors at the time had only an idea to locatesome of the county’s tax office operations in the space.

They had no plans for renovations or even how they would befunded. Only now – as part of a half-hearted effort to keep thestate agency – have they begun considering renovationpossibilities.

Another aspect of supervisors’ idea would add a level ofinconvenience for citizens needing to conduct business at thegovernment complex. With the city police department’s recentrelocation, pulling the county tax office out of the governmentcomplex would be another departure from the facility that has beena unique example of city-county cooperation.

While the wildlife office situation is not economic developmentfrom a strictly business or industry standpoint, it willnevertheless have similar consequences for local businesses andcitizens.

The jobs provided by the district office will go somewhere else,services – and revenue generated for this community – provided byLincoln County businesses for agency vehicles will be doneelsewhere, and the prestige of having a state agency office inone’s county will be claimed by another community. Lincoln County’sloss will be another community’s gain due to supervisors’short-sighted handling of the wildlife office affair.

One of the main responsibilities of government entities is tofoster conditions that will provide jobs for constituents and builda stronger tax base. With their support of the new industrial parkand other projects, supervisors in recent years have been veryeconomic development minded and impressive with their progressiveattitudes.

On the wildlife office score, however, the board of supervisorsfailed and failed in a big way. That failure could have negativeconsequences for Lincoln County for years to come.