County board backs arts school stay in Brookhaven

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The call is not theirs to make, but the Lincoln County Board ofSupervisors’ opinion on the Mississippi School of the Arts will beheard.

The board on Tuesday drafted a letter addressed to Gov. HaleyBarbour urging him to halt legislation that would move theMississippi School of the Arts out of Brookhaven and onto thecampus of the Mississippi University for Women in Columbus. Thegovernor recommended such a move as a cost-saving measure late lastyear and a bill that would carry out that suggestion is currentlyunder discussion in the Mississippi House of Representatives.

“I can’t expect the governor or lieutenant governor to changetheir minds just based on the needs of one county, but I feel it’simportant for county government to make absolutely sure theyunderstand the impact,” said Lincoln County Chancery Clerk TillmonBishop. “The supervisors are trying to do their part, just like ourlegislative team is working so hard.”

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Supervisors approved of the letter Tuesday morning and had itdrafted and in the mail by Wednesday morning. The letter highlightslocal investment and involvement with the school and its cleantrack records and questions the notion that money would be saved bymoving the school out of Brookhaven.

“We all recognize that we are in lean times, but to move afacility from one area of the state to another does not seem to bean appropriate way to handle the budgetary crises,” the letterreads.

Even though county government has no direct say in MSA affairs,Bishop said supervisors unanimously support the school because ofits economic impact on the area, the strong local investment andsupport dedicated to the institution and the “boundless educationalopportunities” it provides.

Local businesses are joining supervisors’ rally.

Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Executive VicePresident Cliff Brumfield sent a mass e-mail to all the chamber’smember businesses Tuesday urging them to contact state lawmakersand ask them to oppose any attempt to move MSA out of the city.House Bill 599 – the legislation authored by House EducationCommittee Chairman Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, that would move MSA toColumbus – is expected to be voted on soon, he said.

“At this point direct contact with members of the House andSenate would be the best measure to send word that we want to keepMSA in Lincoln County,” Brumfield wrote, pointing out the localdelegation is working hard to protect the school. “It’s the othermembers from across the state that need to hear from us.”