Cut in funding threatens Adolescent Opportunity Program statewide
Local Adolescent Opportunity Program coordinator William Walton appealed for help from supervisors this week, saying the program will shut down by June 30 due to budget cuts by the state. Walton said all AOPs throughout the state will be closing.
Tunica County Youth Court counts heavily on AOP for services to youth who come before the court, Walton said. The local AOP has received $185,000 in state funding, with Tunica County supplementing about $50,000, Walton said.
Board president James Dunn asked Walton what options were available. Walton said there was a program through Coahoma Community College. Dunn added that AOP could “go back under the Boys & Girls Clubs.”
County administrator Adrian McKay said that he and Walton had spoken but had not settled on any option.
The Board voted to give Walton the authority to submit applications for any suitable option.
Supervisors also discussed at length the finances of the Tunica County Utility District. TCUD manager Matt Young had reported that a number of back bills had been caught up and that TCUD was now running a monthly surplus.
“Month to month, it is much better than a year ago,” Young said.
He added that TCUD could have a balanced budget within 18 months by dedicating $30,000 each month in surplus revenue toward “aged payables.”
Young reminded the Board that TCUD had asked previously for the county to help the utility catch up with its past dues. He said the TCUD board was now asking the county to catch up its 401k payments to John Hancock so that the employees could withdraw their 401k monies. TCUD employees work directly for Tunica County for the first time in the utility’s history, making them eligible to participate in state retirement.
McKay said he thought if the county were to pay TCUD’s past due accounts, that TCUD’s surplus revenue should go into the county’s general fund.
“Their board is a separate entity,” explained Board attorney John Perry. “The county can vote to make a proposal to the TCUD board.”
Young then said that TCUD is not county funded except in the case of projects requested by the Board of Supervisors. He added that some of TCUD’s current difficulties began after the flood of 2011.
McKay then said that in 2011, the county received a $3 million disaster loan from FEMA, and that $289,000 of that had been submitted on behalf of TCUD.
Some of those funds apparently went to repair roads at the Tunica Cut-off that were damaged both by the flood and by utility repairs made after the flood.
Perry told supervisors he did not recommend a loan to TCUD unless there was a contract that stipulated that TCUD’s surplus funds would repay the county.
Dunn asked Perry to draft a proposal for the Board to consider on June 6.
In other business on May 16, supervisors:
• accepted bids from Thompson for a compactor and an excavator. Road Dept. manager Joe Hawkins said Thompson’s excavator bid of $175,965.12 was not the lowest but met other criteria specified, making it the best bid. Thompson’s bid on the compactor was $59,748.30.
• approved the purchase of a chiller for the courthouse, contingent upon receipt of a letter from the state’s Department of Archives and History affirming the awarding of grant funds.
• voted to advertise for bids on a new roof for the jail.
• accepted a letter of resignation from Geraldine Alexander as planning commissioner from District 5 and appointed Justin Cariker to serve in the post.
• voted to appropriate $100,000 to the North Tunica Fire District once three firefighters are hired.
• approved three manual checks: $36,642.39 to Mississippi DEQ for loan payments; $1,304,016.62 to Tunica County Schools to make whole what the county owed through April of this year; and $20,000 for entertainment and promotion of a blues music and veterans’ event at the Tunica RiverPark on June 3-4.
• appointed Henry Nickson to serve on the North Delta Planning & Development District board to replace McKinley Daley.
• approved the hiring of 60 youth who completed the Parks & Rec Youth Development program for summer jobs and hired eight workers for day camp and other summer programming.
• adjourned until 9 a.m. on Monday, June 6.
Aerospace entrepreneurs envision ‘Silicon Valley of the South’ in MS
Tunica is slated to be one of seven sites in a statewide project being billed as “the Silicon Valley of the South.”
The individuals driving the project held a press conference on Wednesday, May 11, at GoldStrike Casino. In addition to area media, guests included local and state elected officials, law enforcement and potential investors.
Donald Green of the Mississippi Delta Council of Farm Workers introduced a panel of speakers which included Dr. Alex Cheng of the University of Mississippi, Bill Blackwelder of the Clarksdale based United Southern UAS, and Dr. Thomas Mensah, a world-renowned inventor. State Senators Robert Jackson and Willie Simmons of Cleveland also offered greetings on behalf of the state.
Cheng, who serves as the Dean of Engineering and a professor of Civil Engineering at Ole Miss, said the university was excited to partner with the project.
Cheng said he recently reminded a graduating class at the university that the world was changing and technology is the force behind many of those changes. He explained that historically, students have graduated from his program only to find jobs outside of the state.
Partnership launches new job prospects for Tunicans
At least 10 Tunica County residents are among 13 trainees who began eight to 10 weeks of basic manufacturing skills and hands on training sessions this week, the culmination of a partnership among county and company officials, Northwest Community College and Florine Miller, who landed in Tunica in 2014 to assist displaced Harrah’s Casino employees.
Miller, coordinator from South Delta Planning & Development for a National Emergency Grant, said Monday that the partnership was “long in the making.” A conversation with Feuer Powertrain about their workforce needs set in motion a cooperative effort that could now expand to serve other manufacturers and businesses.
Miller and Feuer human resources director Wanda McKinnon drew workforce educators from Northwest into the mix, also involving local economic development official Lyn Arnold.
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