Thompson deed vote angers two supervisors

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 25, 2000

Lamar Braxton, CEO of the local Head Start provider, recently told supervisors he didn’t care whether Adams County leased Thompson School to his agency or gave it to them.

So Braxton said he really has no reaction to a surprise vote last week by the Adams County Board of Supervisors, to give the school to the AJFC Community Action Agency’s Head Start program.

&uot;We were open to either one when we made our presentation,&uot; he said. The deed agreement &uot;was still in line with the proposition I had (made) so it really didn’t mean too much to me.&uot;

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Friday’s vote came just two weeks after the board voted 3-2 to give AJFC a 50-year lease on the North Union Street School.

AJFC needed either a lease or a deed to Thompson, so it can acquire funds for building maintenance.

But Friday’s vote has sparked outrage by two supervisors, Thomas &uot;Boo&uot; Campbell and Darryl Grennell who think the school should remain taxpayers’ property.

Grennell’s questions whether the 10 a.m. Friday’s meeting was legal, because he did not find out it was taking place, until 4 p.m. Thursday. Because of the short notice, he was unable to attend.

Grennell wants to take the matter to court and have the meeting declared void. He thinks the short notice may have made the meeting illegal, and he wants to ask the supervisors to void the Friday meeting the next time they meet.

&uot;If they don’t plan to void out that meeting, I’m going to file my petition,&uot; he said.

Grennell said his attorney is still researching the matter, but he plans to file a lawsuit in Adams County Circuit Court by the end of this week at the earliest.

Supervisors Virginia Salmon and, Sammy Cauthen – who said the meeting was a continuation of last week’s July 17 meeting – have long supported given the building to&160;AJFC, because it is expensive to maintain.

Supervisor Lynwood Easterling changed his vote on the issue at the Friday meeting, after learning the county would still be liable for the building, under a lease agreement.

And Braxton said he understands the county’s concerns about liability.

&uot;As long as they maintain ownership, of it, they have some liability.&uot;

AJFC had requested either the lease agreement or a deed to the school so it could receive $357,000 in federal-funding towards repairing the school’s roof.

This money could not be released unless AJFC had guaranteed long-term use of the building, such as through a deed or lease, Braxton said.

During the school year, more than 500 children, from infant to preschool age, attend Head Start or Early Head Start at Thompson.

That number usually drops to about 100 during the summer session with 125 now attending. The school will return to full-enrollment September 5.

The school has been plagued with building problems in recent years and is currently operating under a restricted license from the Mississippi Department of Health.

Recent state-ordered asbestos tests came back negative but the school’s leaking roof it still a concern for health officials.

The health department expects AJFC to award a bid for repairs to the roof by August 31, said Dr. Mary Armstrong, district health officer.

&uot;We anticipate they will probably have that ready in time,&uot; Armstrong said.

She could not say whether the health department would close the school if AJFC does not meet the deadline, saying the health department will deal with those concerns at that point.

Braxton said AJFC hopes to have cost estimates on the roof repair by the end of the week and to advertise the project within the next five to 10 days.

And the Administration for Children and Family – the federal agency that funds AJFC – wants to see plans for the roof repair this month before the release any federal dollars.

&uot;They want to be absolutely sure before they release this money, there won’t be a leaking roof at the end,&uot; Braxton said.

AJFC officials hope, the repairs will get them out from under their restricted license with the health department.

&uot;I would just love it as of January 1 (if) we were receiving a permanent license,&uot; Braxton said, adding that he knows that may not be enough time.&uot;

AJFC is also still working on plans to divide the Head Start children among three sites or &uot;neighborhood schools&uot; in the county. Thompson School would be one of those sites.

Braxton said officials are looking at a site in the vicinity of West Primary School, in the southern part of Adams County.

AJFC is applying for a federal grant to build the classroom space at this location.