City, county continue political chess over CVB board appointments


The disagreement between the city and county on the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau is now official.

The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors voted Thursday to amend the existing ordinance governing the CVB, reducing the number of appointments to the CVB board of directors from the city and county to three each. The board then voted to ask the state Legislature for a local and private agreement to increase the number to four appointments each with a ninth member jointly appointed by the president of the Board of Supervisors and the mayor.

In its final move, the board voted to open all of its appointments on the CVB board for applications with the intention of reappointing the positions.

The Columbus City Council voted at its Dec. 21 meeting to reduce the number of CVB board appointments to three from each governing entity and leave the board permanently at six members.

District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks, who opposed all of the board’s decisions regarding the CVB along with District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith, asked what would happen next with the city and county in disagreement.

“We’re back at square one because this is not what the city proposed. It makes no sense to do that. It still does not solve the problem,” he said.

District 1 Supervisor and Board President Harry Sanders, who made each motion relevant to the CVB, said the next move was the City Council’s.

The move to reduce the CVB board to six members was made by the city and county to comply with state law which states convention bureaus are to be run by a board comprised of three appointees from each governing entity. However, the 1986 city ordinance establishing the CVB called for a nine-member board with four appointments from the city and county and the inclusion of the president of the chamber of commerce.

Sanders cited county board minutes from 1986, which show the board voted to adopt the city ordinance, but no evidence of an interlocal agreement between the city and county has been discovered. Officials have expressed concerns the Legislature may cancel the 2-percent restaurant tax, which funds the CVB, if an interlocal agreement is not reached.

Other business

In other business the board:

  • Agreed to amend its memorandum of understanding with KiOR to reroute funds from a Mississippi Develop-ment Authority loan to construct a third lane on Industrial Park Road rather than construct a new dock for the synthetic crude oil manufacturing plant expected to begin construction next year. The third lane is needed to relieve traffic congestion from logging trucks.

    The county entered into the $250,000 loan with the city and the Lowndes County Port Authority with each entity agreeing to repay a third of the loan. The cost for the road construction increased the total cost to $367,450, which equates to an annual payment of $14,000 for each entity.

    The Columbus City Council also approved the change at a special meeting Thursday.

  • Heard an update from Columbus-Lowndes Development Link CEO Joe Higgins on plans to expand the county’s industrial park, now marketed as the Golden Triangle Regional Global Industrial Aerospace Park. Perma Corp. of Columbus, with a bid of about $1.54 million, likely will be tapped to lay a portion of additional water lines to service land adjacent to the Golden Triangle Regional Airport. Higgins estimates the water and sewer project will be complete within 18-24 months.

    The Link and Lowndes County Industrial Develop-ment Authority secured a 46-percent grant/51-percent loan of $17 million from the Rural Development Administra-tion for the infrastructure project. The plan is to use the site’s existing resources, including access to the airport, railways, highways and the Tombigbee River, to attract more companies in the expanding aerospace industry.

    American Eurocopter, Stark Aerospace and Aurora Flight Sciences already occupy some of the site’s 2,500 publicly owned acres.

    The board also approved assigning County Administrator Ralph Billingsley, Board Attorney Tim Hudson and Chief Financial Officer Davis Basinger to research the best option for purchasing several parcels of land to be serviced by the new water and sewer lines. Officials plan to add 1,000 acres of development-ready land to the industrial park.

  • Authorized architect Joey Henderson of Johnson Bailey Henderson McNeel Architects in Jackson to advertise for bids on a new Lowndes County Justice Court building, to be built north of the county jail on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
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