Alderman makes new bridge pitch

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, February 5, 2003

Ward 3 Alderman the Rev. Jerry L. Wilson made yet another pitchTuesday for a new Warren Avenue bridge, a project other cityofficials have not pursued due to “astronomical” cost concerns.

Wilson’s approach during Tuesday’s city board meeting was thepotential for lost lives due to a train blocking a railroadintersection and prohibiting emergency medical services personnelfrom reaching a patient in time. He said the county has beenallocated the money for bridge repair, but other city officialssaid there is no money for related property purchases that would berequired.

“I don’t see why we can’t fix the bridge,” Wilson said.

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Wilson also said if the project is located elsewhere, buyingproperty would not be an issue.

“I choose the life over the property value,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the city should at least see what property owners inthe area would be willing to sell their homes and land for. Heestimated it would be “just a few dollars.”

Mayor Bill Godbold said Wilson had been pursuing the bridge forsix years.

“I’m still fighting it until we see a new bridge over there,”Wilson responded.

City Attorney Joe Fernald said the project was tabled by theboard several years ago shortly after engineers began a design andlooked at the property that would be needed to construct the bridgeto federal guidelines. Although he did not have figures, theattorney mentioned the need for eminent domain and said the costwould be “astronomical.”

“It is not feasible to build a bridge where it is now,” Fernaldsaid.

Wilson persisted and his comments suggested other factors may beinvolved. He did not elaborate.

“We always find the money for everything else,” Wilson said.”Why now can’t we find the money for this?”

Alderman at large Les Bumgarner indicated support for theproject was not the issue, but funding concerns were.

“Everybody wants the bridge, it’s getting it to fit the puzzleis the problem,” Bumgarner said.

Board members also approved Alderman Wilson joining City ClerkIris Rudman, Bookkeeper Mike Jinks and Deputy City Clerk MarshaFairman at an April planning and development conference inBiloxi.

Wilson asked to be allowed to attend because he said learnedabout grants and other programs to help constituents. In one ofseveral comments during the meeting, Godbold referred to Wilson’scandidacy for District 1 supervisor.

“I don’t see us educating you for another office,” Godboldsaid.

Wilson said his candidacy had nothing to do with his request,adding that he always tries to better himself.

In other travel matters, aldermen approved an increase in themileage reimbursement rate to 36 cents a mile and set a 400-milestandard reimbursement rate for trips to the coast. Ward 2 AldermanTerry Bates voted against the coast rate move.