Line of credit issue may be over with'

By Staff
CERTIFIED Lauderdale County Deputy Circuit Clerks Tina Moore, left, and Samantha Boutwell check signatures on petitions seeking an election if county supervisors apply for a $5 million line of credit. Just under 2,500 signatures were certified, apparently more than the 1,500 needed to call an election. Photo by Chris Allen Baker / The Meridian Star
By Chris Allen Baker/staff writer
March 3, 2002
Lauderdale County supervisors are expected to decide Monday whether to hold a county-wide election to establish a $5 million line of credit or drop the issue.
Supervisors want to use the money to fund as much as possible of $8.3 million in capital improvements. But a petition drive led by critics of the plan apparently has obtained sufficient signatures to force an election if supervisors decide to proceed.
Board president Craig Hitt, who represents District, says the issue may be dropped, even though it cleared the board on a 4-to-1 vote. District 5 Supervisor Ray Boswell was the lone dissenter when the board voted and an outspoken critic of the plan since then.
The board voted on Jan. 11 to establish the line of credit through the Mississippi Development Bank at an interest rate of 2.95 percent. Any amounts borrowed could only be repaid with available cash, meaning that supervisors could not increase taxes for that purpose.
In February, The Meridian Star reported that $20 million remained available out of a $125 million first-come, first-served pool administered by the Mississippi Business Finance Corporation. Nineteen other government entities in Mississippi including the city of Meridian which has endorsed a $10 million line of credit arrangement are participating in the program.
Bill Barry, executive director of the corporation, could not be reached Friday for an updated figure.
Hitt said a $40,000 price tag and the timing of an election could jeopardize getting the credit if the board proceeds.
Hitt said he is not even sure if there will be much discussion on the issue Monday. He said supervisors may ask board attorney Rick Barry whether the county has to officially withdraw its resolution seeking the credit.
State law allows registered voters to sign petitions to force a referendum if supervisors want to establish the credit.
Circuit Clerk Donna Jill Johnson and her staff spent eight business days checking signatures against voter rolls among other duties; they finished Friday. Johnson certified just under 2,500 signatures, or about 1,000 more than the 1,500 needed to require an election.
Lauderdale County resident Thomas F. Corn submitted petitions carrying 3,913 signatures.
Names and addresses on the petitions had to match voter rolls for signatures to be valid.
Johnson defined kickouts as illegible signatures, persons who had moved out of the county and a few people who signed for their spouses.

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