April 8, 2010 9:57:00 AM
Last week, city, county and state officials gathered at the base of the old Highway 82 bridge, heralding the state Department of Transportation''s $2 million grant to renovate the long-shuttered structure into a pedestrian park.
Since that day, the bridge has presided over somewhat troubled waters. Board of Supervisors President Harry Sanders said that the county was "blind-sided" by the fact that the county, and the city, must each put up $200,000 in matching funds to receive the state grant -- this despite the fact that the county agreed to the arrangement four years ago when the city first pursued the project. Supervisors, this week, openly questioned whether they were still on the hook for the money.
And, Mayor Robert Smith and Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem''s now-infamous City Hall fist fight centered around the bridge -- Karriem placed discussion of the bridge on the City Council agenda, apparently sooner than Smith, an advocate of the project, was ready to talk about details.
Despite these wrinkles, and the associated price tag, we believe the project is a worthy one and should move forward. The bridge, now gated off, rusting and overgrown, sits at Columbus'' "front door," and spans the entrance to the Columbus Riverwalk, the hugely successful and scenic walking/biking path. Soon, work will begin on the Burns Bottom soccer park project, which will connect to the Riverwalk and further enhance this space. And, the area is bordered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land -- 158 acres of natural habitat running through the Riverwalk to the Tombigbee River.
The bridge would be a centerpiece to this sprawling recreation center and natural habitat, and a one-of-a-kind amenity no other city in Mississippi could boast.
The bridge would be more than a recreation area -- if done properly, it could be a premier gathering place for visitors and citizens of Columbus. An elevated park spanning the Tombigbee River would make an impressive backdrop for any number of events, not just athletic pursuits.
And, any project that enhances the quality of downtown and draws people to the city''s center serves to keep the area vibrant. It could be a destination for visitors as well as locals. It would be a unique economic engine.
Some have argued that during the recession, city and county resources should go to other needs. We agree that basic infrastructure needs -- such as roadwork and flood control -- are sorely needed in the city. In a perfect world, we''d have an additional $2 million from the state to put towards them. However, this money is earmarked for the bridge project. (MDOT has come through for the city''s roads as well. For example, the repaving of Military Road, funded federally and administered by MDOT, is ready to start. And the repaving of Highway 182 from the 82 exit to the Alabama state line -- right down Main Street -- is budgeted for and in the works.)
We are pleased with the success of the Riverwalk. And the soccer complex, as planned, will provide a much-needed recreation area while keeping the natural beauty of Burns Bottom intact. The city and county have proven they can find common ground to fund these and other unique projects. The bridge project has been long-delayed and has had a rocky restart, but we hope our leaders have the vision to recognize its potential, and see it through.
Quinn commented at 4/8/2010 11:20:00 AM:
Please revise with the name(s) of the author(s).
only a quarter commented at 4/8/2010 2:09:00 PM:
You can buy a paper for .25. It probably has the whole thing in it.
Bill commented at 4/8/2010 7:09:00 PM:
I have to disagree with you on this one. $2,000,000.00 is a lot of money to spend on renovating an old bridge for a pedestrian walkway. The City and the County are both having financial problems, and their matching fund portions of this project could be put to better use for the time being. When and if, the economy turns around, would be a more appropriate time to spend money frivolously. People need to be able to work 40 hour weeks and earn a decent living. In other parts of the Country inmates provide restoration services at no cost to the taxpayers. Why don't the City and the County ask for volunteers for any of their needs?
Bill commented at 4/9/2010 9:16:00 AM:
This appeared as an editorial in the paper. Presumably it was written by the editors at the paper. Editorials are typically not signed.
M.C. commented at 4/9/2010 3:05:00 PM:
It seems you are aware that the Department of Transportation is offering a $2 million GRANT to this community and you are concerned about the City/County putting up less than a fourth of that amount, in order to secure the GRANT for the PROJECT in this community. We don't get to choose what the GRANT would be used for, it's clearly earmarked for infrastructure improvements such as BRIDGES; but, a project of that magnitude dropped within our county line will more than pay back the meager contribution the City/County has been asked to make to secure the GRANT in jobs, retail sales, sales tax revenues, to name a few, yielding a PROFIT to the City/County which then CAN be used any way the City/County chooses. I really have trouble with why people can't understand that.
resident commented at 4/9/2010 9:55:00 PM:
That's funny M.C., I have a problem understanding why you think Columbus needs a 2 million dollar plus park bench. And just where are you going to get the money in the future to maintain this park bench? I hope you don't expect the Street Department to keep it up as they can't even handle the ditches they already have now. Maybe Birney can throw roses at it, sorta like fairy dust, and it will magically take care of itself.
Columbus: T-bone steak lifestyle on a bologna budget.
What a silly ass town.
marvin commented at 4/9/2010 10:21:00 PM:
@resident "Silly ass Town" now there's a good name for the problem.
answerme commented at 4/10/2010 7:45:00 PM:
We all want to see our tax money spent wisely, of course. If this project does go through at a cost of 2.2 million dollars to complete, what happens to the other $200,000 that is left over?
tiredof it commented at 4/10/2010 7:46:00 PM:
If it's worth redoing then you redo it!
progress commented at 4/10/2010 8:56:00 PM:
Ignorance is bliss, these people are beyond clueless. Luckily they're just a vocal minority, don't confuse them with facts.
resident commented at 4/11/2010 8:14:00 AM:
Well that may be Progress, but clueless people don't piss off 2.2 mill on a place to sit their fat asses. However, stupid Southerners will at the drop of a hat thinking the world will read about this painted wonder and flock to the city to see it and park their butts on one of those wonderfully unique benches.
Yeah, I'm confused.
progress commented at 4/11/2010 10:17:00 AM:
Yes resident, you are:
As MC pointed out and as you apparently comprehension challenged: the $2M MDOT grant was available and the city was awarded it. And so that's bad...whatever, stop embarrassing yourself.
answerme commented at 4/12/2010 1:12:00 PM:
progress, maybe you can answer my previous question. Is this project up for bids? Will this project take exactly 2.4 million dollars to complete. If it takes less, where does the money go that's left over?
We don't want to waste taxpayers' money. We need accountability.
rita commented at 4/12/2010 8:37:00 PM:
I heard the city and the county will not vote for the funding of the bridge to no where. What happens to the 2 percent tax we pay to eat in this town. Why can't they use that money to pay for a bridge. Is that the Visitors Center. Call them and ask someone about it. I will.
resident commented at 4/13/2010 4:40:00 AM:
Progress, I understand the city got the grant. Do you understand a painted bridge is hardly a wonder of the world and no one is going to rush to come see it. It won't generate a dime of revenue, and it will require that you spend money from that point on to maintain it.
This is another one of those "uptown" projects that is all glitter and no substance. The only thing embarrassing here is that a town is stupid enough to waste that kind of money on a nothing.