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Director of struggling Agri-Center resigns

TUPELO — Eighteen months after being hired to turn around the money-losing Lee County Agri-Center, Julia Viator has resigned as director.

The county Board of Supervisors accepted her resignation at its regularly scheduled meeting yesterday, The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported.

Viator, who also was working in retail, gave notice Oct. 5. Saturday was her last day, Lee County Administrator Sean Thompson said.

“I feel that this is the most prudent decision due to the unstable environment of the Lee County Agri-Center, and at the request of the Lee County Board of Supervisors that I choose between employment positions during an election year,” she wrote in her resignation letter.

She had asked for, and got, a raise from $38,000 to $45,000, five months after she was hired in April 2010. More recently, she took a retail position while continuing to work at the center.

Until the board finds a replacement, Thompson will oversee operations at the 150,000-square-foot complex.

Two full-time employees remain on staff.

Viator was hired to turn the unprofitable center into a revenue generator – or at least make it break even.

The Agri-Center typically brings in about $100,000 a year, but has always needed county money to stay afloat. During the most recent fiscal year, it got $280,000 from the county.

Although Viator had made progress improving the facility’s physical appearance, she wasn’t able to draw the kinds of events that increase revenues.

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