Friday, September 30, 2022

Supervisors Don’t See Eye-to-Eye on Urgency For Planning Director

By Alyssa Schnugg
News Editor

Lafayette County Board of Supervisors

While most members of the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors agree the county will probably need a Planning Director in the foreseeable future, one supervisor thinks now is the right time.

On Monday, Supervisor Kevin Frye presented a six-page resolution proposing the county advertise for candidates for a new Director of Planning and Community Development.

Supervisor and Board President Jeff Busby said he’s never seen the Board pass a resolution when the county needed to hire someone.

While a majority of the supervisors eventually voted to table the resolution for two weeks, a lengthy discussion ensued for about an hour prior to the vote to table.

Frye said he believes with the county growing as it has, having someone with planning experience at the helm would be beneficial and proactive rather than reactive.

“Things we do and things we choose not to do affect our future and our children’s future,” Frye said at the Monday morning meeting.

In the resolution, Frye points out that the updated Comprehensive Plan from 2017 recommends the county hire a planning a director and that $75,000 has been budgeted each year for that position.

Earlier this month, the county formed a “Working Group” in collaboration with the Economic Development Foundation, the city of Oxford and the University of Mississippi with representatives from all four entities to review the agreement between the county and the EDF. It will also review best practices for community and economic development, integration and coordination of community and economic development priorities between the county, city, university and EDF and the structure and services provided by the EDF.

Busby said he would like to give the Working Group a chance to look at some of the issues facing growth and economic development before jumping to create and fill a new position.

“Let’s give them a chance to do what we’ve asked them to do,” Busby said.

Busby said the board only received Frye’s proposal Sunday night before the 8 a.m. meeting Monday morning and felt Frye had a political agenda for wanting to push hiring someone now before the Working Group had a chance to meet and come up with recommendations.

“I think we’re doing something right,” Busby said. “And we’re managing it pretty darn good. Are there problems? Yes. Are we working through them? Yes. I’m not telling you we don’t need to hire someone eventually, but I’d like to hear from the people we appointed to look at all this.”

Frye said the resolution was only to advertise for the position.

“I’m not saying we hire someone right now,” he said. “It’s only to start the process of advertising for applicants.”

Supervisor Chad McClarty said the county did advertise for a Planner 18 months ago.

“We couldn’t find a good fit,” he said. “I’m not saying I don’t agree that we need someone to help be proactive but don’t know yet what that job would look like. Are we hiring a planner or an economic development person?”

Supervisor Mike Roberts said he also didn’t understand the sudden urgency from Frye.

“If this new committee recommends we hire a planner, then so be it,” he said. “Why is it that all of a sudden no one’s recommendations matter?”

Frye said the urgency was so that the county would have someone involved in the Working Group that had a planning background.

“Right now, we don’t have that,” he said. “The others (Oxford, EDF and UM) have people with that background.”

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