January 30, 2009
WEST POINT -- The Clay County Board of Supervisors is anticipating the passage of a federal stimulus package. And, like counties and municipalities across the state and country, board members are doing their best to make sure they get their fair share of the money when and if it comes.
Clay County''s wish list of projects hopefully to be funded through the more than $800 billion House-approved stimulus package is comprised of 22 road construction and bridge repair/replacement projects at a projected total cost of $37.8 million.
Five projects have been put at the top of Clay County''s wish list: the repair of 1.6 miles of Tibbee Road, the replacement of the Northwood Forrest Bridge, the repair of two bridges on Old Highway 10, the repair of the Ruth Cliett Bridge in the northwestern part of the county and resealing of many other roads spread throughout the county. The projected cost of all five projects is $4.8 million.
Board members Thursday voted to issue a memo to all 82 Mississippi counties asking for support in lobbying for the stimulus money designated toward municipal road repair to be distributed by the Office of State Aid Road Construction and not the Mississippi Department of Transportation.
"We want to make sure a bulk of the infrastructure dollars filter down to the local level," said Clay County Chancery Clerk Robbie Robertson. "We want to make sure local municipalities get their share."
The board''s concerns lay within the minimum road standards from each agency.
"If the money comes from the federal government then MDOT''s minimum standards are higher than the minimum standards from state aid," said Calvert-Spradling engineer John Freeman.
The agency distributing the funds would set standards for road construction such as width, strength and safety precautions. For example, MDOT would require rumble strips -- rough patches designed to alert a driver he or she is veering off the road -- be constructed on the shoulders of any roads they helped fund; whereas state-aid roads would not require such design inclusions.
"If MDOT gets their hands on that money, they are not going to turn it loose," said District 2 Supervisor Luke Lummus. "We want that money to come through State Aid."
"One board speaking up isn''t going to have much influence," said Board President and District 4 Supervisor Shelton Deans, whose idea it was to issue the memo. "But 82 is something else. We are where the rubber meets the road."
A cooperative team of representatives from Clay County will journey to Washington Tuesday to learn more about the stimulus package and meet with Mississippi lawmakers. The group will consist of West Point Mayor Scott Ross, Deans, Robertson and Jeff Rowell and Michelle Easterling of the West Point/Clay County Community Growth Alliance.
"We have a good group going and I''m really excited about it," said Rowell.
"We''re really going to find out the lay of the land when we head to Washington and see what we can really push for," said Robertson.