HOUSTON — The ink is dry on a state grant that will see approximately $250,000 in improvements done to the Chickasaw County AgriCenter this summer.
And while Mississippi Legislature and local lawmakers pushed the grant this spring and the revenue bill got the governor’s signature this summer, the work to bring it all together started a number of years ago.
“We want to thank Representative Preston Sullivan and Senator Russell Jolly for making this happen,” said Angie Abrams, of the Chickasaw AgriCenter Committee. “But a lot of people have seen the need for this for a long time and helped us put this project together. It was a community effort and it will benefit everyone in this community.”
Abrams said the AgriCenter Committee will now begin the process of taking bids for various jobs. She pointed out the work will have to meet state requirements, but the committee hopes the process will go smoothly and they want to start work as soon as possible.
“The biggest job is the roof and we’ve got to get that fixed first,” said Abrams. “We want to renovate the bathrooms and concession stands. And of course we have a wish-list with more than a dozen things we want to see fixed.
“We want people to know we will try to use local contractors, but we also want people to know we want the best and lowest bid,” said Abrams. “The better stewards we are of the state’s money the further it will go.”
The AgriCenter Committee has used county inmates and volunteers for years to make repairs at the giant metal coliseum on Starkville Road south of Houston. Committee member are quick to say it is now time for major maintenance.
“We’ve been working on making this happen for about a year and a half,” said Rick Burgess, of the AgriCenter Committee. “We’ve patched and fixed what we could and a lot of people have done a lot, but it was time for major repairs and that was going to require big money.”
And that is where state dollars come in.
Burgess said Jolly and Sullivan were invited to a 4-H event last fall and asked point blank for help.
“They saw the need and they saw a lot of kids and parents at that event,” said Burgess. “They immediately got on the phone and started the process.”
AgriCenter committee members said no local taxes dollars are in this grant and neither the city, county nor AgriCenter committee is having to match state dollars.
Abrams said the AgriCenter is used just about every weekend from fall to spring. She pointed out summer heat makes hosting events at the massive metal building almost unbearable.
“We have a minimum of about 40 entries at a typical weekend event and that’s at least 120 people in the building on a Friday, Saturday and sometimes Sunday,” said Abrams. “Most of those people travel here, they eat at our restaurants, shop in our stores and buy gasoline, ice and supplies. I know it has an impact on the economy of Houston.”
More importantly the improvements will leave visitors with a good impression of Houston.
“This building belongs to the community and the community needs to support what goes on out here,” said J.E. Pumphrey, AgriCenter Committee member. “We were one of the first in this area to have an arena like this and it was so pretty when it opened.
“Once we get her fixed up we want to invite the community to come out and see what we’ve done,” said Pumphrey. “It think they will like the changes.”
Members of the Chickasaw County AgriCenter Committee are Rick Burgess, J.E. Pumphrey, Doug Abrams, Tim Cook, Clay Johnson, Gaye Booth, Michael Fowler and David Rhodes.