Saturday, May 26, 2018
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The Tunica Times • P.O. Box 308/986 Magnolia Street, Tunica, MS 38676

Aldermen, Mayor sworn in

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Finkley maps out planning pathways

Tunica County’s planning department has had a big role to fill since it was established about 25 years ago. Now, a new director wants to see his office take the next step – creating pathways out of poverty and to job training and education.

Charles Finkley comes to the community via Memphis from a small town in Alabama.

“(Tunica) reminds me of home,” he said when asked why he accepted the job late last year.

That small town in South Alabama also nurtured Tim Cook, who succeeded Steve Jobs as head of computer giant Apple. Finkley got interested in planning when he traveled through the tunnel under Mobile Bay. At age four, he was digging tunnels and constructing miniature roads with crushed up charcoal, he remembers.

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2010 spotlights diversifying local economy

Late in 2009, with the October 6 announcement of a $1 billion car plant to be built on a 2000 acre mega site in North Tunica County, state and local economic development officials lauded Tunica County’s move toward industrial development. GreenTech Automotive promised to produce 150,000 cars per year and 1,500 jobs locally in its initial phase.

That promise of new industry and jobs to complement gaming and tourism gained momentum early in 2010, when German pipe manufacturer Schulz GMBH revealed a plan to locate its own $300 million plant near the site of the proposed car plant. Schulz announced on January 4 that Phase 1 of the project would create 500 jobs within five years, in an initial 180,000 square foot plant.

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County adds temp jobs for students

A self-imposed tight rein on hiring and spending has brought about a bit of a slow down in actions taken by county supervisors.

Among exceptions to that was approval of an extra appropriation to the Parks and Recreation department for summer jobs for youth. Parks and Rec director Billy Willis told the board in mid-May that 51 youth were eligible to participate in the jobs program, consisting of 25 hours of work per week for six weeks. Willis said the total cost for this program was $59,706 at the rate proposed.

The board then added 20 additional jobs for college students, after some board members questioned why these were not originally included. Willis said the funds to operate the summer programs were not in his department budget.

The issue came back up on June 19, when District 4 supervisor Henry Nickson asked why the summer hires were only working three days per week. County administrator Adrian McKay said some were working 24 hours per week and others, 32 hour weeks. The board approved a motion to have “all the kids” work 32 hour weeks.

Minutes approved for May show that the total cost for 2017 summer programs will be $135,892, with projected income from the Aquatic center and the day camps of $90,000 to offset those costs.

Supervisors are also moving ahead with an energy efficiency project at the Battle Arena. A presentation on May 1 indicated that the county could realize big savings on utilities at the arena alone if existing halide-type lighting was replaced with LEDs. The Entergy company also offers incentives in the form of rebates for undertaking such a project, and the Mississippi Development Authority lends money to counties at low interest for doing so. In less than three years, the projects pay for themselves in savings, utility officials say.

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