May 4, 2010 10:39:00 AM
Renovation of the historic Highway 82 bridge across the Tombigbee River is one step closer to fruition.
The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors Monday voted to commit matching funds for a $2 million Mississippi Department of Transportation grant to renovate the bridge into a pedestrian walkway.
The supervisors and Columbus City Council earlier voted to ask the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau to pay a required $400,000 -- or 20 percent -- match on the project, but the CVB offered to split the match costs three ways with the city and county.
The supervisors unanimously voted to pay up to $133,333.33 on the project, and the City Council is expected to do the same tonight.
Board President and District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders complained of "news media misconceptions" the supervisors and councilmen surprised the CVB with a request to pay the required grant match, noting the Board of Supervisors and City Council voted to ask the CVB for the money, before the request was made.
He also noted both city and county officials, in advance, asked the CVB board to be placed on the agenda for the CVB board meeting during which the request was made, while informing them of the nature of the request.
"I think we get along with the (CVB) fine," he said Monday. "This board cannot go to the CVB and ask for money until we''ve voted to do so. We went through the procedures you''re supposed to (follow)."
In another matter, the supervisors Monday got a preview of a public presentation on the soccer complex and park for the Burns Bottom area, a project Sanders noted is "tentatively named Tan Yard Park."
Neel-Schaffer Inc. engineers Kevin Stafford and Randy Meador, as well as Ed Blake of The Landscape Studio in Hattiesburg, discussed the project, for which a public hearing was held Monday night at the Columbus Municipal Complex.
Design of the park -- to be located on a 70-acre site and include nature trails, green spaces, pavilions for reunions and events, as well as soccer fields -- encompasses "five big ideas," of "connectivity, sports and recreation, nature, community and economics and prosperity," said Meador.
"There is a sense of community we want to be reflected in this park," Meador said and Blake noted "historic ties to the community" in the park''s design.
Lastly, Meador referred to the park as an "economic initiative."
"This is an economic development entity," he said. "You''re creating an opportunity for prosperity in your community."
Stafford reported design of the park likely will be completed by the fall and the park likely will be completed by the fall of 2011.
Also, the supervisors voted to hire JBHM Architects on a project to renovate the Lowndes County Courthouse for more space for the Chancery Court Division, the Circuit Clerk Division, a new Circuit Court judge and the district attorney''s office.
Initial project plans included demolition of the courthouse annex building currently occupied by the district attorney and supervisors'' offices, among others, to allow for additional courthouse parking.
County Administrator Ralph Billingsley, who has been working with JBHM Architect Joey Henderson, reported preliminary design estimates have come in "considerably higher," than initially expected.
Originally, the project was estimated to cost around $600,000, but Henderson''s preliminary estimates now are around $1.5 million, Billingsley said.
"That''s hefty," District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks responded, suggesting plans to move the Lowndes County District Attorney''s Office be revised to cut costs.
Billingsley is to continue working with Henderson on design plans and negotiating Henderson''s fee.
The supervisors earlier used $950,000 of interest money -- from the 2006 sale of the hospital to Baptist for $30 million -- to purchase the former First Federal Bank building, located at 12th Street and Main Street, for space for county administrative offices.
The offices will be ready for occupancy this summer.
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