Officials: Trip to D.C. could bring funding

Published 5:00 am Friday, October 15, 2004

Brookhaven and Lincoln County officials says this week’s trip toWashington was a successful one, although it could be some timebefore tangible results are seen.

Mayor Bob Massengill, City Clerk Mike Jinks, supervisors’president Bobby J. Watts, Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop, CountyAdministrator David Fields and engineer Carl Ray Furr met earlierthis week with the staffs of Sens. Thad Cochran and Trent Lott andRep. Chip Pickering to discuss a variety of city and countyprojects.

“We were well received,” Massengill said. “We feel goodpresentations were made to both senators’ staffs and CongressmanPickering’s staff.”

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The city’s and county’s “mutual interest” in a new industrialpark made that project a priority for the trip, Bishop said. Thecity and county are contemplating bond issues to assist with parkdevelopment, but a $2.9 million Economic Development Administration(EDA) grant could offset bond issue needs.

“It could potentially save our local taxpayers a good bit ofmoney,” Bishop said.

The money is needed to provide infrastructure to the proposedpark site west of the city. Included on the needs list are anelevated water tank, a water well and larger water transmissionlines.

“We weren’t asking for an actual appropriation,” Massengillsaid. “We were asking for their help with an EDA application.”

Massengill said local officials are considering going forwardwith bond issue plans around the end of the year in order to securethe land. City and county funds for the industrial park projectwould be paired with some funds raised privately through thechamber’s Vision Partnership.

“Once we get the land, we can begin getting funds for theinfrastructure,” Massengill said.

Officials touted the city’s and county’s unified front inapproaching congressional leaders about project funding.

“We want our city and county working together,” Massengill said.”We were up there trying to get some things done for Brookhaven andLincoln County.”

Another shared project was additional funding for governmentcomplex improvements.

Almost $500,000 has been allocated so far for the improvements,but officials requested an additional $250,000. Plans include a newroof and heating and air conditioning work, as well as somecosmetic improvements such as canopies over entrances.

While officials pursued some projects jointly, city and countyofficials also sought funding for their respective areas.

“We had what I think has the potential to be a fairly productivetrip,” Bishop said.

County projects mentioned included an additional $500,000 tocomplete a road project through the Homochitto National Forest. Thecounty earlier received $2 million in funding that is designatedsolely for use in national forests.

The county also requested $300,000 through the Department ofAgriculture for a drainage project in Bogue Chitto. Countyofficials have raised the issue on previous occasions, but havebeen unsuccessful in securing funding.

“The improvements will eliminate flood damage, which occurs on aregular basis and allow the citizens of Bogue Chitto to constructbadly needed recreational facilities,” according to a projectsummary presented to lawmakers.

County officials cited a number of economic developments inrecent years in asking for $2 million for a “School and IndustryAccess Program.” The funding would be part of a two-year plan toimprove and repair access routes to schools, industry andrecreational sites in the county.

Bishop compared the local officials’ trip to Washington tocitizens making requests of the board of supervisors. The visitshelp official become aware of needs.

“They need to have something to help them base their decisionson,” Bishop said.

With Mississippi’s congressional delegation poised to assumeinfluential positions in Congress pending the outcome of thisyear’s elections, Bishop said now is a good time to approachleaders about project needs.

“The truth is, particularly in Mississippi, that if we don’t goand ask for funding, we’re missing a golden opportunity,” Bishopsaid.

Massengill expressed similar sentiments, thus the city’s requestfor help with a senior citizens’ center.

“We will never get federal funding unless we let them know thatis one of our priorities,” Massengill said.

The mayor said $500,000 is being sought for the facility. He hasa suggested it be built in the area around the A.L. Lott Complex onHamilton Street.

City and county officials are hopeful that the recent trip willpay off like previous ones. As a result of those efforts, thecounty is anticipating $350,000 for Boys and Girls Club buildingimprovements and the city is eager to receive $500,000 to addresswater and sewer treatment needs.

“We’re going to determine where we have problems and beginutilizing those funds in solving the problems,” Massengillsaid.

Funding sought on the recent trip would not be included untilthe fiscal year 2006 budget. That would mean success would not beknown until well into next year.

“We may not hear anything for a while, but this trip wasworthwhile,” Massengill said.