October 6, 2013 12:37:34 AM
Nathan Gregory - [email protected]
Funds set aside by the state for a Lowndes County road can be put to use now that the county can acquire an easement needed to proceed with improving the road.
County engineer Bob Calvert said $1.2 million from the Mississippi Department of Transportation Office of State Aid Road Construction had been available specifically to make improvements to a one-mile stretch of Old West Point Road near Younger Road in dire need. The funds can also help replace a bridge in the same stretch.
The process was held up by the reluctance of some property owners to grant the county the right-of-way so state crews could widen the road and replace the bridge with a wider one. During board meetings earlier this year, supervisor Leroy Brooks asked county attorney Tim Hudson to explore the possibilities of pursuing legal action against those who would not comply so the county could eventually proceed with the project.
One of those property owners, Billy Buxton, appeared before the board of supervisors last week saying he was in support of rehabilitating the road but had concerns about construction equipment and debris on his property. Similar work was done on his land nearly 15 years ago that caused damage to it and he was never compensated for that or the property needed for this project, he said.
"We're downstream of the construction and that's why I wanted to be sure there was no trash left out and I didn't want any debris left out because it would wash boards with nails and stuff down on my property," Buxton said. "We never received a deed saying what was taken, the easement that was taken and for all I know it was never reported at the courthouse.
"I'm all for the project," he added. "I live out there. It's going to enhance my property, but if I'm due the compensation I think it should be paid."
Hudson said the county has agreed with Buxton to replace a fence and purchase the property so the project can move forward.
Brooks said he was pleased that a resolution was reached, noting that if the Office of State Aid noticed funding spent on projects, it would be reluctant to add more money to state aid roads.
"Lowndes County is not the only that is seeing these issues, but certainly (the Old West Point Road) project has been going on for some time," he said. "I'm glad we were able to work this out. As a general rule, I don't like taking people's property but the road needs to be fixed."
Calvert said the county could advertise for construction proposals as soon as next month.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.