Officials expect good outcome from D.C. trip

Published 5:00 am Thursday, May 2, 2002

Brookhaven officials described their trip to Washington D.C.last week to with state congressional leaders as successful, andsaid it will be beneficial as the city pursues continued fundingfor a transportation facility and other projects.

“I think it went well,” said City Engineer Carl Ray Furr, whohelped organize the trip and meetings with congressional officials.”It was good for the delegation to go and tell them the needs ofthe city, what we’re doing and where we’re going to be in the nextfew years.”

The city’s delegation included Mayor Bill Godbold, Alderman atlarge Les Bumgarner, Ward 1 Alderman Dorsey Cameron and JimmyFurlow, who went along to help document the trip.

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In Washington, city officials met with Sens. Thad Cochran andTrent Lott and Fourth Dist. Rep. Ronnie Shows and their respectivestaffs. Godbold said the latest trip was first time he was able tomeet with all three congressmen in person during one trip.

“They were very encouraging for Brookhaven,” the mayor said.

Topping the list of projects discussed was the city’s proposedmulti-modal transportation facility. Furr said the city hasreceived $1 million in federal transit funding in each of the lasttwo fiscal years for the facility that would be located on NorthRailroad Avenue.

“We’re requesting $2 million from federal transit for FY ’03,”Furr said.

Furr said the first money the city received would be used to doan environmental study, which he expected would start next week.With the area being an old power plant, the engineer said he hadsome concerns about PCBs or other contaminants.

“We’ve got to see what we’ve got there,” Furr said.

Furr said the facility would be built in phases. The first wouldbe the transportation center and smoke stack restoration with otherphases done in the future once final needs are determined.

For the trip, city officials traveled to Meridian Saturday andgot a train for a 22-hour trip to Washington. Bumgarner and Furlowflew back last Wednesday while Godbold and Cameron left Washingtonon the train Thursday and arrived in Brookhaven Friday.

While in Meridian, city officials met Mayor John Robert Smith,who gave a tour of that city’s transportation facility. Smith isalso chairman of Amtrak, Furr said.

Bumgarner said he was impressed with he called a “state of theart” Meridian facility. Citing Smith’s comments, Bumgarner saidthere was opposition to the Meridian facility when it was built,but there is no opposition now that is in place and helping thecity.

“I think we’re going to have a similar situation here,”Bumgarner said.

Some questions have been raised about the Brookhaven facility’stotal cost and long-term operational expense. Federal fundinggenerally is available on an 80 percent federal — 20 percent localmatch basis and Bumgarner believes the city’s share could be madeup in in-kind labor and equipment services.

Bumgarner said one factor in support of a Brookhaven facility isthat trains are required to stop here.

“If they have to stop here, they ought to have a nice facility,”Bumgarner said.

Bumgarner said it would be great to have some shoppingopportunities in the transportation facility, but that was not themain focus. He cited a conference center, meeting area and an”urban renewal” of the dilapidated area as primary benefits.

Bumgarner indicated the city needed to capitalize on the state’scongressional clout and local officials’ relationship with thecongressmen.

“I really believe if we don’t take advantage of thisopportunity, we’ll be sad,” Bumgarner said.

With Specialty Minerals Inc.’s rumblings about increasing itsoperations in the Industrial Park, Furr said an upgrade to thecity’s Waste Water Treatment Plant also got attention during therecent trip.

“We have to do a significant expansion to the waste waterplant,” Furr said.

Furr said the city would be seeking funding help in fiscal year2004 for the project. Furr estimated the project would cost $2.5 to$3 million, and he hoped to be able to secure about 55 percent ofthat through a federal special needs grant.

Bumgarner said the need for a new industrial park and airportactivities were also discussed.

“We didn’t make any solutions. We just discussed what are needsare for the future,” the alderman said.

Furr said the congressional officials continue to be receptiveand supportive of Brookhaven’s needs and plans.

“There’s a lot of things going on in Brookhaven,” Furr said. “Istill maintain that Brookhaven is going to be hub of southwestMississippi.”

Furr graded the trip an A. He indicated the trip would keepcongressional leaders aware of events and goings on inBrookhaven.

“Brookhaven in on the radar screen,” Furr said.