The Stone County Economic Development Partnership Board of Directors met last Tuesday and approved a revised budget proposal.
The organization’s original fiscal year 2018-19 budget proposal had been denied by both the Stone County Board of Supervisors and the City of Wiggins Board of Aldermen.
The approval of those boards is necessary under law for the SCEDP to operate under the 1999 statute which created it.
At issue had been a three-percent pay raise for the two employees of the SCEDP and the lack of line items designating $50,000 to the county and city for economic development projects.
In the revised budget, the SCEDP agreed to entertain viable economic development projects brought forward by the county and city with a footnote specifying, “subject to funds availability,” but no specific line items.
SCEDP board treasurer Jody Miles presented the budget to the Stone County Board of Supervisors Monday and explained that encumbering $100,000 for the county and city would negatively impact the organization’s ability to service debt should it choose to invest in property for industrial development in the future.
“There’s no way we can specify those funds and still be able to debt service financing for a viable project,” he said.
The budget also rescinded the three percent raises but made an adjustment to Executive Director Betsy Rowell’s salary to meet a contractual obligation to provide health insurance.
That adjustment raised total personnel costs in the budget from $131,000 to $131,720.
District 3 Supervisor Lance Pearson made a motion to approve the budget and District 1 Supervisor Clark Byrd seconded that motion.
They voted in favor and District 4 Supervisor Scott Strickland and District 5 Supervisor Dale Bond voted no.
The motion died because of a tie vote.
District 2 Supervisor Daniel Harris was absent.
Strickland, who also serves as President of the Board of Supervisors, said he was not sure what it would take to put a satisfactory budget proposal before his board.
“I would hope they would do what we requested,” he said. “As of yet, they haven’t even tried to meet those requests.
“I would anticipate they will come forward with a budget the board can approve. This needs to be resolved and my hope is that it will be resolved.”
During its meeting of last Tuesday, Executive Secretary Sandra Kirke asked to address the board and read from a prepared statement taking exception with quotes which had appeared in print and on social media sites.
“I have read articles in the Stone County Enterprise as well as Facebook posts in regards to elected officials asking where money is within the EDP,” she said. “The insinuations are that EDP personnel have their hands in the pot again. I find this extremely offensive and degrading.”
Kirke said during her tenure at the organization every penny had been accounted for.
“The audits have been squeaky clean,” she said. “Each elected official gets copies of budgets and audits and should review these prior to making insinuations that affect my reputation.”
She also complained about city and county officials meddling in the pay scales of employees not under their direction.
“My performance should not be a reflection on what the city or county can or cannot afford,” she said. “City and county employees get very good benefits and I get nothing.
“ . . . If I’m not performing to expectations, let me know but I should not be punished for reasons that have nothing to do with me, especially when the EDP has the money in their budgets to give me an increase.”
A statement, unanimously approved by the board, was also read into the record.
“As substantiated by independent audits, the Stone County Economic Development Partnership board expresses through a vote of confidence and appreciation to Executive Director Betsy Rowell and Administrative Assistant Sandra Kirke for the financial management and operation of the Stone County Economic Development Partnership; and to acknowledge that they have provided financial management and operation with integrity and diligence and with a focus on fiscal responsibility.”
The revised budget was scheduled to be presented to the City of
Wiggins Board of Aldermen at its Tuesday evening meeting.
A home on Melvin Road was destroyed by an early-morning fire Tuesday.
Firefighters from the Wiggins Fire Department, South Central Fire District and Big Level Volunteer Fire Department responded and found the roof of the home fully involved.
The house could not be saved.
SCFD Chief Tommy Muffler said a call wasn’t made until power was lost in the neighborhood.
“A homeowner had a piece of medical equipment shut down when the power went out, woke up and saw the glow from the fire and reported it,” Muffler said.
Stone County Fire Investigator Kevin Sharpe was expected to conduct an investigation beginning Tuesday.
The owners of the home were reported to be out of state at the time of the fire.
Several local organizations and individuals are working to provide relief efforts to victims of Hurricane Michael in Florida.
The Stone County Board of Supervisors approved Emergency Management Director Raven James’ travel to the affected area to provide logistical and other support while two Mississippi Power workers from the county joined a contingent of 100 headed to Florida to assist in restoring power.
Stone County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Phyllis Olds is accepting donations at the SCSD while the Stone County Enterprise is offering its offices as another drop-off point for donations.
The SCSD and the Enterprise will arrange transportation of the donated items to Gulf Coast Business Supply in Gulfport to be loaded on a truck bound for Florida.
“Anything you can remember needing after Hurricane Katrina, those folks in Florida are needing now,” Olds said.
Cleaning supplies, baby wipes, diapers, towels, socks, personal hygiene products, non-perishable food items and pet food are just a few of the items which will come in handy during relief efforts.
“We are happy to contribute, in some small way, to the efforts to assist those in need,” said Enterprise publisher/editor Heather Anderson. “We can all remember just how difficult we had it after Katrina and how much every little bit helps when one is in such a situation.”
The Stone County Sheriff’s Department is located at 1420 Industrial Park Rd. in the Stone County Regional Correctional Facility complex.
The Stone County Enterprise offices are located at 143 First St. S. in Wiggins.