Supervisors serve Sumrall tennis court project a $500K win

By HASKEL BURNS,

A couple of weeks after verbally agreeing to transfer $500,000 of BP Settlement Bill funds to Sumrall for the construction of tennis courts, the Lamar County Board of Supervisors made that decision official with a 5-0 vote during Monday’s board meeting.

The $500,000 – which was secured by Lamar County as part of the BP Settlement Bill – will be used to build six tennis courts at an existing soccer complex on Mississippi 42 in Sumrall. 

In addition to the funds, supervisors also voted to give Sumrall the land on which the soccer complex sits, which currently belongs to the county.

A bit of confusion regarding the funds came up after the passage of the BP Settlement Bill – formally known as Sentate Bill 2002 – in which Sen. Joey Fillingane, who co-authored the bill, intended for the funds to go to the Sumrall tennis courts. Supervisors, who were unaware of Fillingane’s intentions, had proposed at a previous meeting for the $500,000 to go to the county’s proposed sports complex, which would be constructed on U.S. 98 just outside of Oloh.

District 4 Supervisor Phillip Carlisle said while he’s not opposed to recreational facilities of any type in the county, he hopes in the future those types of funds will be given to the county and distributed by the board of supervisors.

“I’m not against any legislator bringing money into the county,” he said. “But the more I think about it … there’s no persons in this county that know what needs to be done in this county – and where monies need to be prioritized – more than these five (supervisors) do,” he said. “We look at it every day, we hire people to help us assess the needs and desires of the county.

“We utilize all these people that we surround ourselves with, and pay good money to help determine those things. So there was some miscommunication; we didn’t know what had already been going on in Sumrall (with the tennis courts).”

The $500,00 is part of the $750 million distributed throughout Mississippi as a result of the state’s lawsuit regarding the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, in which 210 million gallons of oil were spilled into the Gulf of Mexico.

Seventy-five percent of future BP settlement payments, following the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010, will go to a Gulf Coast Restoration Fund for projects in the six southernmost counties, and the remaining 25 percent to a State BP Settlement Fund, which will be disbursed in cities and counties in the state.

“For 10 more years, I hope to get some more (of those settlement funds,)” Carlisle said. “I’m going to find out where the line starts, and I’m going to be there early – I’ll take me a lawn chair if I have to.

“So number one, I hope we get more (money); we need it. We’ve got some major, major projects … and I just want this board to be able to decide for the entire county where the biggest needs are.”

The centralized sports complex got an official start of sorts in September, when supervisors approved a 20-year comprehensive plan for the county that included the facility. The site on U.S. 98 that is being discussed for the project is located on 16-section land that is owned by the Lamar County School District.

A “vision team” is currently researching how best to move forward with the complex, and is expected to report back to the board of supervisors in the near future.