Some outraged by MGCCC partnership with South Alabama - - The News for South Mississippi

Some outraged by MGCCC partnership with South Alabama


By Jessica Bowman – email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A controversy involving the University of Southern Mississippi, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and the University of South Alabama continues. The issue deals with a building on the community college's Jackson County campus.

For nearly 25 years, USM has been renting the building from MGCCC. Because of budget constraints, that's no longer the case. So the community college recently worked out a deal with South Alabama. And that has some folks very unhappy.

"I really don't appreciate high ranking state officials using another state agency trying to smear and ruin the reputation of a great institution," MGCCC President Dr. Willis Lott said.

Dr. Lott is talking about an unnamed state lawmaker who went to the state auditors office to ask about the agreement MGCCC made with the University of South Alabama. Lott said there's a misconception that USA is getting the building for free.

"It's really not a free year," Dr. Lott insisted. "Instead of getting our $66,000 in cash, they're going to put in over $100,000 worth of equipment."

Initially, the State Auditor's Office said the deal between the two schools may violate state law. But now they've backed off that assertion, and are awaiting an official opinion from the  Attorney General's Office.

In the meantime, the three year agreement between the two institutions is a done deal. State Senator Billy Hewes is one of those who has concerns.

"Number one, why are we allowing an institution from out of state to have residency on a state public institution's campus?" Sen. Billy Hewes asked. "The other is, if the rental rate is less than what Southern Miss had been paying, was Southern Miss offered the same opportunity to stay at that rent reduced rate as well?"

Dr. Lott said South Alabama will be paying the same per square foot rate as what USM has paid. The difference is USM used both floors of the two story building and USA will only be using the first floor.

Dr. Lott said he hates that they cannot continue their partnership with USM. He also said he did notify USM President Dr. Martha Saunders back on October 15, 2009 to let her know he was having talks with South Alabama.

Dr. Lott said the college will be asking for an official opinion from the Attorney General's Office on Monday.    

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