Meridian Star

May 21, 2013

Vote proposed on bond issue

By Brian Livingston / blivingston@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     It wasn't in the agenda but the bond issue and the petition drive to stop the members of the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors from proceeding to obtain $14 million in funds for several projects did come up Monday during the board meeting.

    District 5 Supervisor Kyle Rutledge said during the period in which the board members have to voice their concerns over recent proposals and issues that members of the board are elected to make financial decisions for the citizens of the county. In saying that, Rutledge said citizens have voiced their opposition to the bond issue and he added that some of the more than 1,500 people who signed the petition have been targeted for doing so.

    "The ultimate decision about this issue should be left up to the people it effects the most," said Rutledge. "Numerous people have called me and said they have been harassed in order to take their names off the petition."

    In May, petitions calling for a county-wide vote on the proposed bond issue prompted county officials to delay going forward with the projects.

    The bond issue proposes to spend $3.8 million to build a 32,000 square foot sports complex that will house a four-court gymnasium with bleachers at Highland Park. Also, $3.5 million of the bonds will go to the county-owned fields of the West Lauderdale Youth Association; $2.5 million will go to the county-owned Clarkdale Community Recreation Association park construction, and the remainder, $4.2 million, will go to fund the first step in the renovation of the the county courthouse.

    Monday evening, Rutledge put forth a proposal for the board to give the people a chance to cast their vote for or against the bond issue. District 2 Wayman Newell seconded the motion but the vote, minus District 1 Supervisor Hank Florey who was not present, ended in a two-two deadlock with District 3 Supervisor Josh Todd and District 4 Supervisor Joe Norwood voting against the measure.

    Norwood has said before all the signatures were collected he hoped there were not 1,500 names on the petitions because he wants to move forward with the projects.

    "I wish there never was a petition," Norwood said Monday evening. "Some people were misled on this issue thinking it was something else and now they want their names taken off the petition," Norwood added.

    Todd said he still believed in obtaining the bonds noting the support for the issue in his district.

     As of 5 p.m. on Friday, the number of counter-petitions — those who wished their names to be removed from the petitions — was 19, according to Chancery Clerk Carolyn Mooney. But Mooney was asked by Newell if there were any signatures added to the petition and she said yes.

    "We've had 320 names added," said Mooney.

    In a vote to get those names accepted the measure was dismissed when Newell and Rutledge voted for and Norwood and Todd voted against.