A new account of a March 27 meeting between a couple of Leflore County supervisors and members of the Greenwood-Leflore Industrial Board shows the economic development board’s lack of support for building a stage at Florewood Park, despite supervisors’ initial comments to the contrary.
On Monday, District 3 Supervisor Anjuan Brown told fellow supervisors that he had met with Angela Curry, the executive director of the Industrial Board, about the possibility of using funds designated for economic development toward the cost of construction of a permanent stage at Florewood Park.
Brown said the discussion shifted to renting a temporary stage to accommodate the Down Home Blues Festival planned for the park on May 11. He told supervisors that Curry agreed that $15,000 the county had donated toward economic development could be used because of the number of people the event could attract.
“If the amount of people come that’s expected, then it’s going to be economic development,” Brown said. “That’s why I went to them with this, and they agreed.”
Brown’s motion to provide $13,200 to rent a stage and equipment for the concert was worded as “I make a motion to allow economic development to go forward with donating this money for this project.” The proposal passed by a 3-2 vote.
On Tuesday, Greenwood-Leflore Industrial Board Chairman Anthony H. Sinclair issued another account of the March 27 meeting. According to Sinclair, the meeting was attended by Brown, District 1 Supervisor Sam Abraham, Curry, Industrial Board member John Stewart and Sinclair.
The statement says Sinclair told Brown and Abraham “that the Greenwood-Leflore-Carroll Economic Development Foundation Board Executive Committee at their March 26 meeting voted to not fund $15,000 toward the purchase of a permanent stage at the County’s Florewood Park.”
He said the committee “felt the request for the funding did not meet the Foundation’s specific economic development goals and criteria.”
Economic development in Greenwood and Leflore County is supported by actions of the Greenwood-Leflore Industrial Board, which is funded in equal parts by the city and the county, and the Greenwood-Leflore-Carroll Economic Development Foundation, which has other sources of funding. Both entities are controlled by the same people who serve as the foundation’s board and the Industrial Board, and Curry is the executive director of both entities.
Although the functions and separation of the two organizations can be complicated, Sinclair said one thing was clear: “We would not cut a check out of either entity for that.”
Sinclair did state, and Brown agrees, that Sinclair presented the idea of using funds the county had allocated but had not yet paid to the Industrial Board. The idea hinged on “if the Board of Supervisors thought that constructing a permanent stage at the county’s Florewood Park was a higher economic development priority than providing $15,000 to the Industrial Board in (fiscal year) 2019.”
On Tuesday, Brown said he took Sinclair’s statement as an endorsement of the stage project because it provided the county with a way to fund it that the supervisors hadn’t previously considered.
Abraham said the money for the stage rental comes from a $275,000 fund earmarked by the county to support special projects for industrial development over five years. In the first two years, he said, $110,000 of the money had been spent, but Abraham said the Industrial Board told him and Brown the money would not be needed this year.
“That is economic development,” Brown said of the blues fest project on Tuesday.
“Maybe I didn’t explain it clearly yesterday,” he said. “Miss Curry did state that’s not something they want to get into with the building of the stage. They wanted to see if this project is going to be successful. They suggested to us that the money that is given from the county for projects, that we give to them, that we can utilize that and use it for advertising county resources.”
Brown said the supervisors give money to community projects every year, including $1,500 to the April 27 Greenwood Gravel Grind biking event just this week.
Funding of the stage was opposed at Monday’s meeting most strenuously by District 5 Supervisor Robert Collins. He said Tuesday he had a chance to review the contract the county had with the promoter and found the promoter was to provide the stage, lights and sound equipment, and remove them after the concert. He said the promoter is paying $1,000 for use of the park, and now the county is chipping in $13,200 for the stage.
“This is not economic development,” Collins said. “This is a show this guy’s putting on.”
Both Brown and Abraham pointed to other events the county has supported with donations, but Collins said those events were put on by local organizations and not an out-of-town promoter.
“We support the Chamber of Commerce because the chamber does a good job and because they’re Greenwood,” Collins said.
•Contact Gavin Maliska at 581-7235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.