Supervisors back increase in road funding

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Lincoln County supervisors say a proposal seeking a larger shareof federal transportation funds for counties is a “fair share”issue that would help locally by improving road maintenance.

At their state association convention recently, supervisorspassed a resolution asking lawmakers to increase the counties’share of approximately $93 million in federal road funds the statereceives from around 7.5 percent to 19 percent. Lincoln CountyDistrict 2 Supervisor Bobby J. Watts indicated the increase is longoverdue.

“I think it should have been taken care of a long time ago,”Watts said.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Supervisors point out that counties are responsible forapproximately 73 percent of roads in the state, while the statecontrols about 15 percent and municipalities the remaining 12percent.

Locally, supervisors add that Lincoln County ranks near the topin number of road miles and bridges. They say those roads andbridges are in need of maintenance.

“It’d help a lot,” said District 5 Supervisor Gary Walker abouta funding increase.

Based on funding formulas, Mississippi’s 82 counties receivestate funding assistance for designated State Aid roads and forbridges through the Local System Bridge Program (LSBP) enactedseveral years ago by the legislature. Lincoln County has been a bigbeneficiary of the bridge program, and supervisors said a roadfunding increase is needed.

“If we could just get some more through State Aid, it would helptremendously,” said District 4 Supervisor W.D. “Doug” Moak, amember of the Mississippi Association of Supervisors (MAS)legislative committee.

Walker pointed out related benefits of increasing road funding.He indicated more bridges could be fixed through LSBP.

“If they could give us a better percentage of it, it’d help usto fix these old bridges and replace them,” Walker said.

While additional money could not be used to address additionalmanpower and equipment needs, Watts said it could help with roadimprovements.

Watts said the county’s smaller roads are in need of repair.Citing an estimate he received shortly after taking office, he saidit would cost $46,000 to put new asphalt on one mile of countyroad.

“Our little farm to market roads need an overlay…,” Wattssaid. “All the districts have the same problem.”

State officials, however, point out that larger roads in thestate have higher traffic levels and deteriorate more rapidly.Therefore, more maintenance funding is needed for them.

Watts disputed the perception that county roads aren’t heavilytraveled.

“Just because counties don’t have super highways, that doesn’tmean we don’t have heavy traffic on our roads,” Watts said.

Watts also mentioned Lincoln County’s increasing population as areason for needing more road money.

“Our roads are not adequate for the way our county is growing,”Watts said.

Supervisors last year sought similar legislation to increasecounties’ share of road funding. Moak said that measure died incommittee amid competing financial interests and what he saw asrelationship concerns between the association and legislators.

The association will ask for legislation to boost funding duringthe 2003 legislative session. Moak indicated next year’s bill mayhave the same fate as this year’s.

“I’m not very optimistic,” Moak said. “I think MAS may havebitten off too big a chunk the first time.”

In asking for $19 million, Moak said the association was aiminghigh in that it could still an increase over the approximately $8million that counties now receive. If not successful, Moak saidsupervisors will continue to press for a larger share offunding.

“We’re going to make a run at it, probably, every year until wesee some increase,” Moak said.