Featured Story – Como Park

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 6, 2012

About 20 volunteers cleaned up Como City Park for “National Make a Difference Day” last Saturday, including North Panola High student Shunderla Wilson (left) and Dr. Albert Nylander, director of the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi. The Panola County Board of Supervisors defeated a motion days earlier to provide dirt and gravel to the park, citing more than $35,000 already spent to improve it. Como won a $100,000 grant to construct t

No regrets from supervisor over Como park

By Billy Davis

(The version of this story in the Friday print edition and an earlier version posted on this web site stated incorrectly that the Como park chairman is the wife of Supervisor James Birge. She is not. She is Josie Little. The Panolian regrets the error.)

Panola County Supervisor Cole Flint said this week he has no regrets about leading an effort on the county board to halt county work at Como’s city park.

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Supervisors voted 3-2 at an October 25 recessed meeting to defeat a motion to truck three loads of gravel and 14 loads of dirt to the park on Elder Frank Ward Street.  

Curtis Price and Abner Young, members of Como’s park committee, appeared at the county meeting to request county help.

James Birge motioned to approve the county work and Vernice Avant seconded, but Flint and fellow supervisors John Thomas and Kelly Morris defeated the motion.

Josie Little, chairs the park committee that is overseeing its construction. She was formerly the sister-in-law of Supervisor James Birge. She was not present at the meeting.

Asked why he vocally opposed helping Como, Flint said county government should not be helping parks in municipalities.

“I didn’t think county taxpayers wanted their money spent like that,” Flint, told The Panolian this week.

A $100,000 state grant obtained by North Delta Planning and Development in Batesville is funding the park construction in Como.

The grant is from the Miss. Development Authority, the economic development agency in Jackson.

Supervisor Birge sits on the board at NDPD along with Avant and Morris.  

NDPD representative Jeff Walters, who was present at the meeting, said the grant requires a 30 percent match and Como has fulfilled its match by supplying volunteer labor.

“The only people who have put out any money for a park in Como are the county taxpayers,” Flint responded at one point.
Flint, currently serving his first term at age 27, was the most vocal opponent of the park committee’s request.

He produced county road department documents that show five road department employees worked a total of 13 days at the city park during July 2011.

Four days were spent hauling and spreading dirt and one day was spent hauling gravel for the parking lot. Four days were used to knock down and remove concrete silos for road department rip rap, and tree cutting and removal took four days.

The cost of labor, equipment usage and materials topped $33,800 for just under two weeks of work.

A less-detailed report from two days in July and August of this year totals about $1,600.

Road manager Lygunnah Bean said at the board meeting that some costs are estimates, which are borrowed from figures quoted by FEMA for storm reimbursements.

The three loads of gravel and 14 loads of dirt would cost about $2,556, not including labor, Bean told supervisors.

The loads of dirt are needed to level the ground to ensure water is not standing in the park, park supporters told Flint and other supervisors.

The two park committee members also suggested a tree struck by lightning needs to be removed, and the gravel parking lot needs to be surfaced.

The street leading to the park has lots of potholes, one of the committee members also pointed out.

Supervisor John Thomas reminded Birge and the park committee that the City of Sardis paid the county for dirt to level its city park.

Como City Park, the first in the town of 1,300 residents, is located on land that was donated to town government in 2009.

A concrete walking trail encircles the park, which includes a playground, picnic tables and benches. A chain-link fence that will encircle the park has been approved as the next project on site.

Como City Park is wedged between a home to the south and an overgrown city lot to the north. A gravel parking lot allows entry from Elder Frank Ward Street.

The land donation permitted Como to move forward with plans for a town park, and in September 2009 late Como Mayor Judy Sumner asked the Board of Supervisors for help.

A letter from Sumner to the county board asks the road department to remove all but one tree from the park, level the ground, and spread gravel for a parking lot.

A board order approved by the Board of Supervisors that same month green-lighted the road department to help “clean the park,” without specifying what amount of materials and labor were permitted.

The Panolian obtained copies of the board order and Sumner’s letter to the Board of Supervisors.