July 8, 2014 10:29:02 AM
The Mississippi Development Authority may be willing to allocate more money toward construction of a new firing range in Columbus to make up for insufficient local commitments.
Last week, Lowndes County supervisors accepted a bid from Edge Construction of $464,318 to build berms and a fence for the range, which is primarily purposed to support Columbus Air Force Base personnel training missions. Construction is already taking place at the site near the old Maxim Medical building currently owned by the city and county and used for storage.
Inflation and changes in project scope also contributed toward the project's $1,698,418 price tag, which is $300,000 more than the original budget projected in 2012. State grant funding is slated to fund $1,053,000 of the project, with the city and county each previously agreeing to split the remaining costs. The increased costs meant the city and county would each have to chip in $322,709 instead of the originally anticipated $156,000.
A day after supervisors accepted the bid and agreed to cover the county's portion despite increases, city councilmen approved paying $203,000 the city already had budgeted for the project, but no more, leaving a balance of $119,709.
Kevin Stafford of Neel-Schaffer Engineering is overseeing the project. He said he spoke with MDA officials, who said they would be "willing to listen" and potentially make up for the difference. Edge Construction will not officially be awarded its contract until MDA makes that decision, Stafford said.
"I told (MDA) at this point, the way it's slated is you're going to be footing the bill for about 40 percent, and I think they would be willing to maybe bear some of that cost," he told supervisors.
Receiving the grant funding was previously dependent on the project being complete by Oct. 22, but Stafford said the project would be granted an extension by MDA if significant progress is shown near that deadline. If MDA does not allocate more funding, other cost-cutting measures, such as using the existing parking lot instead of putting in a new one closer to the range, will be considered.
Board of supervisors president Harry Sanders questioned the city's decision not to fund the extra $119,709.
"I think (the city and county) had an agreement on the front end to do this 50/50 and it sounds to me like they're going to renege on it, but that's OK," Sanders said. "We can sit here and not talk about it as long as everybody wants to, but that's a policy change from the city, and that's real serious stuff. It seems like they would at least give us some heads up in the front end rather than having to read it in the newspaper. I think some other people on this board feel the same way I do. I'm just the one that voiced it."
The range would be managed by the city. It is not currently known how many people would work at the facility, but it is also expected to be open to local law enforcement as well as the general public.
South Lehmberg eyed for potential improvements
South Lehmberg Road has recently been programmed as a Mississippi State Aid Road and could be improved between un-utilized allocations and anticipated extra aid from the state.
The Associated Press reported July 1 that after ending up at least $32 million above projected revenues for the budget year that ended June 30, the state will likely be able to hand out that amount for local roads and bridges. County engineer Bob Calvert said depending on what Lowndes County receives, improvements could be made to the road. The county currently has a small amount of State Aid Road funding, but not enough to do a substantial project by itself.
"With this other coming in and that, there might really be a chance," Calvert said.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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