Rent-Free Contract

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Supervisors back out of rent-free contract

By Billy Davis

North Delta Enterprise Community might not enjoy a rent-free building after all.

Panola County supervisors have withdrawn a 10-year lease that would have allowed North Delta Enterprise to work from a county-owned building in Sardis.

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The county board, meeting last week for its first budget meeting, voted to rescind the board order that would have given the non-profit organization 10 years of rent-free access.

Supervisors voted 4-1 to rescind the vote. Supervisor Vernice Avant was the lone “nay” vote.

Supervisors acted after board attorney Bill McKenzie sought clarification before he drew up a contract.

Responding to McKenzie, Supervisor Bubba Waldrup said the county board had since learned that Panola County government had been maintaining insurance on the building. North Delta is insuring the contents, he said.

Supervisor Kelly Morris, following Waldrup, then suggested that the board rescind its vote until the non-profit produces receipts to show how it made $20,000 in repairs and upkeep to the building.

“I asked her to bring receipts and she didn’t do it,” Morris said, referring to Verna Hunter, the non-profit’s executive director.

Hunter had told supervisors she was at a doctor’s office and was unable to search for the receipts.

The previous contract, which expired in June, stipulated that North Delta Enterprise will make $20,000 in repairs to the building in lieu of rent.

The newest contract, if allowed to move forward, would have stipulated only that North Delta maintain the building in lieu of rent.

The topic of the contract came after the county director for the Miss. Department of Health informed supervisors that the state agency is paying $950 a month to rent a building in downtown Sardis.

“The health department is renting for $950 a month and we’re giving (North Delta) a building rent-free,” Morris told the board.

“The taxpayers see that and wonder what’s going on,” he said.

The board agreed to “revisit” the topic at their First District meeting in Sardis.