Surprise, Surprise, the city is working with private firm

T he ultimate outcome may be what is important, but we are a little surprised at how the City of Magee got to the point of contracting with a privately held business to operate a government program, Head Start. 

 I was recently contacted by a school board member who inquired why nothing has happened in regard to the transfer of ownership of the old Magee Elementary from the school district to the city.  I offered to contact Alderman Patrick Brown and relay the message that the school board was concerned as to why this was dragging on.

 I followed up, and the school board member was never contacted. 

 Last week’s meeting of the Magee Board of Aldermen shed a little light on what was actually going on. 

 The City of Magee has been negotiating with a private company, Five County Child Development, to land a contract to establish the operations center of the Head Start program in Magee. 

 This is different from what had been touted by the city that Head Start, a federal program, was making this move, not a private business.

  Five County is registered as a privately owned business on the Secretary of State’s web site.  Granted, it has a 501-C-3 designation declaring it a non-profit, but all those people handling the $5 million Five County budget are not working for free.  The principal listed on the filing is Andrew Reeves in Mt. Olive. 

 But the big picture is this: we want job opportunities for the people in our community and  we don’t want to be blighted by unsightly decaying buildings as the old elementary sits vacant.  If something is not done soon the facility is going to be in a terrible state of disrepair.  That is not fair to the people of the Goodwater Community.  It is better that the facility be used for something than for nothing.

We had gone to city hall to determine what, if any, official action had been taken regarding the property.  We could find nothing in the minutes.  I contacted my alderman, who deferred my contact to Alderman Patrick Brown.  He got in touch with me. 

 He stated that he was unaware of Five County being privately owned, but said he and the city were all about doing the “right thing” and we have no reason to doubt that.  It would be easy to assume Five County is government related, but it appears that they are a management organization much like South Central Community Resources.  They help manage local programs for communities. We assume in return they get a management fee.

   We just hope that in this case the city has followed all the guidelines they should in order to get the Five County administered Head Start program to relocate in Simpson County.  Part of the contract allows that if they lose their federal funding the property would revert back to the City of Magee in 30 days. 

 That is a little like the community work center--the jail-- that just gave their 30 day notice and pulled all the inmates out of Magee.  We hope that doesn’t happen again in the city’s deal with Five County.