Fannin addresses 4-H statement

Published 9:49 pm Wednesday, February 24, 2010

District 6 Pike County Commissioner Oren Fannin said a statement he made in Monday’s commission meeting regarding the county’s 4-H club was not meant to offend the program.

“My statement was simply to justify giving money to another organization when we had previously denied it to 4-H,” Fannin said.

This came after the commission voted to give $10,000 to the Pike County Soil and Conservation District. The same board denied the Pike County 4-H Club a similar request for $15,000 last September. Both agencies sought funding for a part-time staff position.

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As the commission made the 4-2 vote Monday, Fannin said 4-H “doesn’t return a lot” to the county.

He said Wednesday he meant that statement solely in financial terms.

“It was in no way meant to be derogatory to 4-H or Ms. (Tammy) Powell,” Fannin said. “I think they certainly do a lot of good things, but my reasoning was that particularly due to the recent weather, the citizens of the county would reap more immediate benefits from the soil and conservation district.”

In 2009, the Pike County Road Department received $43,733 from the Wiregrass Resource Conservation and Development Council (RC&D) and the Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP), all disbursed through the soil and conservation funded projects.

In its funding request, the Soil and Conservation District said the RC&D had promised another $6,111 to the county this year, and the EWP is evaluating projects which could include Pike County.

The agency said it needed a part-time technical assistant to help keep these types of funds coming to Pike County.

Both the Soil and Conservation District and the 4-H Program already receive $10,000 each in funding from the county’s share of sales tax collections, as part of county funding of several agencies.

Powell’s request last year was denied because her office already received those funds, commissioners said.

Fannin said he wanted to publicly clarify his statement, after he was advised by other officials to do so.

“I only had two people that left me a message about it,” Fannin said. “But I had a couple of calls from some people that are officials that I don’t want to name, and they read the (Messenger’s) blogs and said I probably needed to do something.

“I hurt her feelings and the feelings of those who work in that office, and I felt like I needed to do something publicly.”

While the county didn’t give the extension office additional funding last September, Fannin said he encourages those who are able to do so to make a donation to the program.

“I think now is a good time for any company or wealthy individual in this county, if they haven’t already done so, to support a good charitable organization like 4-H. I myself am going to see Tammy Powell today to give her a $100 check to 4-H,” Fannin said. “I know at least 99 other people in Pike County can give $100, and then she’d have her $10,000.”

Powell, director of the extension office, said she appreciates the support the office receives from the county.

“I do appreciate all the commission does for the county’s extension office,” she said.