OKTIBBEHA COUNTY — Oktibbeha County has decided to split its $10 million worth of bonds between all five districts rather than using it on the county as a whole.
Oktibbeha County technically operates as a unit system, meaning the board sets one budget and operates as one, rather than a beat system in which separate road budgets are set and each district supervisor acts as an independent road manager when the county receives any road money — either from local taxes or state aid. It divides the money evenly among the districts and lets each supervisor set the road and bridge repair priorities for each district.
The county recently issued $10 million worth of bonds for capital improvements. After a work session Monday, the Oktibbeha County board of supervisors outlined how it would spend the bond money, prioritizing a few overall county needs and splitting the majority of funds evenly amongst all five districts.
Interim Mississippi State Aid district engineer Jerry Gilliland approached the supervisors in December, encouraging them to address the most pressing needs county-wide rather than dividing the money evenly between districts, but supervisors feared doing so would be disruptive.
“The best thing to do is split the money evenly,” District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams said. “Save the confusion.”
The county purchased a $1.8 million building on Lynn Lane in December, and the board decided to fund it with the bond money. The department of human services, child protective services and the Oktibbeha County office of Mississippi State University Extension, who all currently reside at the previous Felix Long Hospital, will move to this new location, allowing the county to demolish the old building.
Bond money will finance demolition costs. County administrator Delois Farmer said she would like to see the building torn down sooner rather than later for insurance reasons.
“I want to go ahead and move forward with that because the sooner we demolish it, the sooner we can get it off of insurance,” Farmer said.
The bonds will also be used to purchase $1.6 million worth of equipment needed for the road department, including motor graders, bulldozers and new trucks.
Districts 2, 4 and 5 have received funds for road projects during this term from other means, such as legislative acts. In order to ensure all districts have improvements for the term, the board decided to allocate the county’s remaining state aid dollars — $457,414.08 — to District 1 and give the same amount of money from bonds to District 3.
“That way this district has gotten some, that district has gotten some, that one got some, that district has gotten some, and I’m made whole,” District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard said.
After these four allocations, the remaining money, around $6 million, will be split among districts.
Required by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, the county must fix the Oktibbeha County Lake Dam, which has had issues for several decades. The board voted in December to allocate its approximate $9 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to improve the dam without knowing the price of what the cost of repairs would be.
Board attorney Rob Roberson said while he does not know an exact price, he estimates the repairs costing a couple million dollars. Because funds could be left over from ARPA, the board agreed Monday it would like to use any remaining ARPA funds for the prioritized bond purchases — new building, demolition of old building and equipment.
District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery mentioned the potential ARPA matching program Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and the Mississippi Legislature have been discussing, saying the county could even receive more money for the dam and other purchases, ultimately giving more discretionary funds to each district.
“In a perfect world in my mind, I say we get the county lake out of the way,” Montgomery said. “Maybe we can get some matching dollars on that, do the building, do the equipment, possibly pay for the demolition of (Felix Long), and that would free up bond money for everybody.”