Attorney General’s opinion sought on formation of Partnership board

Published 9:46 am Thursday, April 6, 2017

Officials involved in the development of The Partnership, Warren County’s newly formed economic development organization, are hoping the state Attorney General’s office will give its blessing to the organization’s nine-member board.

The Partnership was formed through an agreement between the Warren County Port Commission, Vicksburg-Warren Chamber of Commerce and the Warren County Economic Development Foundation.

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The nine-member Partnership board is composed of the five port commission members, two members from the Vicksburg-Warren Chamber of Commerce and two from the Warren County Economic Development Foundation; all are voting members. The board’s structure, however, raised concerns on the part of some officials involved in the agreement that formed the board.

The attorney general’s opinion was sought, Port Commission president Margaret Gilmer said, to clarify any questions the organizers may have about The Partnership board.

Officials do not know when they will receive a response from the attorney general.

“The great thing about the nine-member board, is it does represent, with all five members of the port commission being on it … give us representation — instead of recreating everything — from the county because two commissioners, myself and Brett Cappaert represent the county, two represent the city, and one represents the state, Gilmer said.

“That gives us full representation, and we wanted a board that gave us full representation that received information from all the other boards. So it’s a great set up where everybody is represented; everybody has a voice.”

The Partnership Board, which becomes effective Saturday, will serve as an umbrella organization that will lead the economic development effort in our community.

“It’s really something that has never been able to be accomplished in Vicksburg, and we were able to do it in short order because we all know the benefits our community will have under this structure,” chamber president Mark Buys said when the board was announced.

He said the board of the Partnership will hold the responsibility for hiring and firing employees, and support and consult with new economic development/port director Pablo Diaz as needed.

The collaboration was the result of discussions by the chamber and city and county officials about combining the county’s economic development efforts under one roof in connection with the Port Commission’s decision to hire Diaz as economic development/port director, with a heavy emphasis on economic development. Diaz will also serve as the chamber’s executive director.

The contract establishing the board expires on April 1, 2022, and can be extended for an additional five years. Under the terms of the agreement, the board members from the chamber and the economic development foundation will each serve three year terms. The port commissioners’ terms are based on the length of their appointment to the commission.

The port commission will move to the chamber office on Mission 66, and pay $1,000 in rent to the chamber starting June 1.

The chamber’s annual contribution will be $53,000 a year, and the city of Vicksburg will contribute $20,000 a year toward Diaz’s salary. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Feb. 16 agreed to commit $20,000 a year for three years to help pay Diaz’s salary. The money is in addition to the $65,000 per year the city already gives the chamber.

The chamber’s contribution will drop to $33,000, however, if the city does not pay the $20,000.

Under the contract, Diaz will be on the county’s health insurance plan, will have a paid life insurance plan and get $6,500 in relocation expenses. He will also have a paid membership in the Vicksburg Country Club, YMCA and the Vicksburg Rotary Club.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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