Meridian Star

October 4, 2013

Supervisors consider West Lauderdale bond issue

By Terri Ferguson Smith / tsmith@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —  A bond issue to fund part of the county's plan for recreational projects may be voted on Monday.

    The issue is expected to be on the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors' agenda when they have their first October meeting.

    During a work session on Thursday, Josh Todd, supervisor of District Three, said he wants to start over with the bond issue so construction of the West Lauderdale youth sports complex can get under way.

    The West Lauderdale project has been part of the $14 million bond issue that drew criticism from a number of county residents, some of whom have challenged it in court.

    After supervisors voted to sell $3.2 million in the first part of the bonds, several county residents took their objections to Chancery Court as part of the bond validation process. The validation process is a legal requirement that takes place before the bonds can be finalized. Although the Chancery Court ruled in the county's favor in September, there is a strong likelihood of an appeal, according to sources.

    An appeal will go to the Mississippi Supreme Court which will either take up the matter or send it to the state's Court of Appeals, according to Rick Barry, attorney for the Board of Supervisors.

    Todd said since the bond issue cannot go forward as long as it is tied up in court, he would like to separate the West Lauderdale project by passing a bond issue for $3.5 million. That amount would be deducted from the overall $14 million bond issue, which also is to fund a Clarkdale recreation project, a Highland Park project, and renovations to the Lauderdale courthouse.

    Todd said because the people of West Lauderdale worked for 12 years to raise $150,000 to build a youth sports complex, he wants to move forward with his project. West Lauderdale Youth Association purchased land and deeded it to the county, which has pledged to build a sports complex on the land. The dirt work is already done, Todd said, and he wants to get moving on the project by March, 2014.

    "They worked hard to raise all that money. I just want to fulfill that for the kids," Todd said.

Todd said he wants to start over with a clean slate. He knows there could be a petition drive as happened with the $14 million issue, but he said he is hoping that the citizens will support the project.

    "By March we could be rolling. We could have 400 to 500 kids playing by fall," Todd said. "I'm excited about that. I know they are.The parents and grandparents that helped raise the money — we just want it to happen. We're talking about six months to a year out and everywhere I go in my area, they want to know why nothing is being done."

    Barry agreed that the bond issue could be held up in the state Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals between six months and a year. He said that the lowest bidder on the bond issue withdrew their bid because of the time frame. If the court rules in the county's favor, they will still have to re-advertise for bids on the bonds, Barry said.