Candidates stress need for industry, bridge work

Published 5:00 am Thursday, July 24, 2003

Editor’s Note: Today The DAILY LEADER continuesa special question-and-answer series with candidates in someimportant upcoming county elections. Featured today is the race forDistrict Five Supervisor. Candidates Bob K. Smith and Gary Walkerparticipated. Candidates Darrell Britt, Harry Solon Case, DouglasFalvey and Michael Assink chose not to take part.

Community officials are pursuing development of a newindustrial park. As a supervisor, what would you do to help fillthe new park with industries should it become areality?

Bob K. Smith: The board of supervisors forLincoln County has one of the most critical leadership roles in thepursuit of the proposed new industrial park. As a member of thisteam, I plan to contribute my educational skills, my constructionbuilding skills, my business speaking skills and 31 years ofexperience in engineering, technical operations and businessmanagement to the success of this worthy project. Without thisvision, the community will perish.

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As a director of new business development for Spectrum Control,Inc. for the past four and a half years, I have knowledge andexperience of industrial development and procedures. I haveexpressed my commitment and willingness to contribute my energiesand experience to county officials, chamber members, IDF andeducational leaders in the common goal of enticing and working withindustries which will be evaluating our industrial park and itsassets for industry. I have worked with the Mississippi Economicand Business Development Agency regarding business development invarious areas of Mississippi.

Site access, infrastructure, labor availability and skills, workforce training and community commitment are essential to enticingindustries that can in turn contribute to our community byproviding sustaining jobs and growth, higher skill jobs whichequate to higher pay and revenue base for the future.

As supervisor, I will also have a commitment to support existingindustries, small and large, that have already contributed to thiscommunity’s growth and success. I have visited many of thebusinesses and industries in District 5 and expressed my commitmentto them and their employees. It is often quicker, easier and morerewarding to expand existing business and industry than to seek outnew industry. Existing businesses deserve the same encouragement toupgrade and expand as the new potential industries. Let us all worktogether to provide a vision and jobs that will sustain our futureand encourage our children to select Lincoln County as theirhome.

Gary Walker: Lincoln County is a member ofSouthwest Planning and Development. Through them, Lincoln Countycan be advertised over the Internet, plus they have people who goto trade shows who try to sell Lincoln County to them for locatinghere to build a new plant or warehouse.

As a supervisor, there comes a time when a company becomes veryinterested in Lincoln County that the supervisor must go to thecompany and work on the details with the owners so they will locatehere. If you remember, the late Cliff Givens went to the home ofSam Walton to get Wal-Mart to locate here.

Lincoln County has a serious problem with the number ofbridges that need to be repaired or replaced. How do you plan tocorrect this problem, and how do you plan to pay for it in thesetight federal, state and local budget times?

Bob K. Smith: This is one of the more importantand pressing issues for Lincoln County. The bridge infrastructurestatus affects the safety of our children and families, and ourdaily commerce. As reported in a March article in The DAILY LEADERentitled, “Bridge Work On Hold Until Money Comes In,” LincolnCounty ranks second in the state in the number of bad bridges with74. Failure to address this issue immediately could result inserious consequences.

While I believe the state bridge inspectors are beingconscientious in their efforts to evaluate the bridges, there is adegree of subjective judgment in their inspections. It is difficultto evaluate and determine the actual safety status of the badbridge structure with ongoing variables; such as rain, flooding,usage and load. This is a serious and immediate problem that mustbe addressed with a degree of urgency.

The $10 million budget is more or less a sustaining countybudget and even with an effort to tighten county expenditures, itwould do little to make an immediate impact on the bridge status.Therefore, I believe it is going to be necessary to enlist helpbeyond the local level to achieve a timely solution andfunding.

I would immediately request a fact-finding meeting which wouldinclude county supervisors, county engineers, state bridgeinspectors, an MDOT representative, Lincoln County Civil DefenseCoordinator, 911 coordinator, and other appropriate parties todetermine the specific status of the bridges and their impact ifclosed.

Depending on the conclusions reached by professional authoritiesand engineers, a recovery plan of action must be established by theboard of supervisors with the assistance of the county engineeringfirm.

If the bridge status is as serious as indicated by the Marcharticle and the findings of the fact-finding exercise support thatconclusion, then a priority action plan and funding should bepursued immediately. This level of funding will require the fullsupport of local, state and federal officials who know there couldbe funds allocated from civil defense, emergency route, commerce,school transportation, homeland security, MDOT emergency fund,federal highway funds, community block grants, urban renewal andtourism, to name a few.

Gary Walker: Yes, bridges are a seriousproblem. In the past, bridges were built on wood caps and pilings.This material, because of age, is rotten. We are in the process ofreplacing them with steel pilings and concrete caps.

Every four years (a term in office for a supervisor) the countygets L.S.B.P. bridge funds from the state to replace bad bridges.The federal bridge money comes from Washington D.C. to the MDOToffice in Jackson to be distributed as it sees fit. For thecounties to get more money, we must go to Washington and lobby ourCongress to allocate the money straight from Congress to thecounties.

As a last resort we might have to have a bond issue only tobuild bridges. If that happens we should have public hearings so wecan get the public opinion. Also, if you are out riding around andcome to a wooden or concrete bridge with wood under it, get out andlook under it. You might not want to cross it.

Friday: Candidates comment on votingequipment and specific needs of District Five.