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Blackjack developments could spur new regulation

 

Carl Smith

 

Oktibbeha County supervisors indicated a willingness to entertain new rules limiting hauling weights as large trucks loaded with materials heading to and from upcoming housing developments continue to damage Blackjack Road. 

 

Residents historically have approached supervisors with their concerns over the well-traveled thoroughfare near Mississippi State University, but more and more complaints have recently come as construction efforts ramp up on at least one of three planned apartment complexes in the area. 

 

Last month, about 20 residents complained about the road's condition and safety concerns created when heavy trucks sometimes block a portion of Blackjack. 

 

The board again heard residents' Blackjack Road complaints Monday and again acknowledged damage created by heavy hauling. The county spent about $13,000 on small patching projects associated with the road last month, and supervisors worry that continued developments will force further expenditures. 

 

County Road Manager Victor Collins said last month that his crews will install "No Parking" and "No unloading" signs along the road's trouble spots so Oktibbeha County deputies can enforce the rules. 

 

The board stopped short of taking formal action Monday, but said the county should at least ask developers for proposed hauling routes in the future. A long-term solution could prove to be complicated as developers need to access construction sites with heavy equipment and materials. 

 

Supervisors said they could set possible weight standards for heavy freight on the roads, but enforcement could strain local law enforcement agencies to the point that the county would have to hire additional manpower. 

 

Despite the continued public criticism over Blackjack Road's quality, Board President Orlando Trainer said the area's growing pains will produce future revenues that will benefit the county as a whole and possibly spur more road projects in the future. 

 

"I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we might have to come up with something to curb these problems; however, most citizens don't understand that this is just a part of (economic) growth," Trainer said Wednesday. "The average citizen only sees the inconveniences - traffic congestion and road damage created while a private company appears to come in and make money. If all of these three developments materialize, we could be looking at perhaps $1.5 million extra in taxes for the county and our schools. 

 

"That's real money that can create a real impact," he added. "We could look into weighing, let's say we pass the best law that's ever been thought up. Who is going to enforce that? It'll create more work, and we'll probably have to hire more deputies. This thing is not just a simple solution the way most people think it is." 

 

Oktibbeha County is soon to begin improvements on the road from about Blackjack church toward Starkville after supervisors approved the above-$200,000 project Monday. An approximate price was unavailable as County Administrator Emily Garrard was out of the office Wednesday. 

 

The project will shore up a portion of the road and should make it less susceptible to damage, Trainer said, while tending to resurfacing, widening, and culvert issues. 

 

A large-scale project utilizing a tax increment financing district consisting of the three apartment complexes is expected to fund future Blackjack Road improvements. Although those plans are still in the conceptual phase since a TIF district is not yet established, officials have speculated that improvements could include road widening, improved lighting and the installation of bike lanes, sidewalks and landscaping near the roundabout on toward Bardwell Road. 

 

Joey Deason, Oktibbeha County's economic development representative, is working with project managers and county officials on the TIF plan. He previously told The Dispatch that all improvement options are on the table. 

 

A TIF district, however, will not materialize until the county is certain the developments will go forward as expected, Trainer said. 

 

District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams previously stumped for road widening projects, but such moves could prove difficult as right-of-way areas contain many above- and below-ground utilities. Collins previously told supervisors that moving those utilities could take years.

 

Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch

 

 

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