Board Eyes Funding for PHWD

By: Stan Torgerson
By: Stan Torgerson

Lauderdale County is one of 15 counties that fund the Pat Harrison Waterway District (PHWD). One mill of the county's tax money is dedicated to Pat Harrison's operation. Three quarters of that mill go to its operating budget. One quarter is to retire a bond issue. That debt will soon be paid.

Chris Bowen of PHWD asked Lauderdale County supervisors not to accept the full refund of the quarter mill but to allow PHWD to retain one half of it in order to increase its operating fund.

"What this resolution is asking for is half of that quarter that's going to be refunded to you remain with the district," said board attorney Michael Strahan. "In other words 1/8th of a mill."

Bowen said there are major expenses funded by Pat Harrison in Lauderdale County. He gave Okatibbee Lake and Dunn's Falls as two examples.

"It actually costs us about $200,000 a year just to run those two parks. We go upside down about $200,000 per year. Recreation is not a revenue generator no matter how you slice it," Bowen said.

He ran into both opposition and doubt from the supervisors, including Jimmie Smith of District 2.

"One of the things, I think, you probably need to do for this board is to bring the numbers composition of what you're going to do with that money and how it will benefit Lauderdale County," said Smith.

District 5 supervisor Ray Boswell was more emphatic with his opposition.

"We've talked about this situation for a long time and if we have an opportunity to pull back some from Pat Harrison we need to do it now," said Boswell.

But Bowen warned it would not be that easy.

"In theory all 15 counties will always be required to pay, even if you were to pull out. You would still likely be responsible for your share of what it costs to operate these structures," said Bowen.

The board said it will discuss the matter further before taking action.


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