HOUSTON – Chickasaw County Supervisors have lost no time in getting repairs started on the Chickasaw County AgriCenter after getting state funds for the work just weeks ago.
Supervisors met with County Engineer Carrson Neal and Angie Abrams with the AgriCenter Committee last week to iron out the process and scope of the work.
Neal said he met with the committee recently and will help with details to replace the roof, fix insulation, gutters, downspouts and fans on each end of the building.
The county will act as the intermediary for a $250,000 grant from the Mississippi Legislature that will renovate the 40-year-old building just south of Houston on Starkville Road.
“Are you ready to advertise for this work,” said District 4 Supervisor Jerry Hall. “We may need a special meeting and I think we are all willing to do that if its needed.”
Neal said he wanted the board to begin the advertising process and he would have the scope of work ready before the next meeting.
“This will speed up the process,” said Neal. “Right now they are looking to do the rest of the work in house.”
AgriCenter leaders hope the bids will come in under $50,000 the threshold for hiring an architect and project engineer.
Chickasaw County Circuit Clerk Wanda Sweeney said the AgriCenter committee needed to fill out requisitions for materials, get a purchase order and follow standard county procedure for spending funds.
“This may take a little more time, but it keeps the records clean,” said Sweeney. “If you have any questions call me or the purchase clerk and we’ll help you get it.”
Representative Preston Sullivan and Senator Russell Jolly were instrumental in getting the state funds for the renovations.
“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.