Officials seek federal help with road projects

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, October 31, 2006

County officials traveled to Washington last week to promoteseveral projects in the hopes of securing federal financialassistance.

District Two Supervisor Bobby J. Watts, District Four SupervisorDoug Moak, Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop and County Engineer CarlRay Furr visited with the staffs of the state’s U.S. lawmakersThursday and returned late Friday night.

“We went up there with an agenda of three things,” Moaksaid.

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The first and second items on the agenda were improvements toJackson-Liberty Drive from Highway 84 north to the Copiah Countyline and Pricedale Road from Highway 84 south to the Pike Countyline.

“The roads are not up to State Aid specifications with gaps onthose roads, and we need to fill those gaps,” Moak said.

Both roads, which are already listed as state and federalroutes, are inconsistent in their quality, he said. Bridge projectson the roads were completed using state funding and improved tomeet State Aid specifications, which includes a largerright-of-way. However, stretches – or gaps – between the bridgeshave not been improved and have degraded over time.

“We’re asking for federal funds because they can also be used toacquire rights-of-way if we need to do that,” Moak said. “Youcannot buy rights-of-way with State Aid money. The county itselfhas to do that.”

Regardless of whether officials were successful in achievingsome federal assistance, State Aid will still have to help with theproject, Moak said. The projects would completed in stages as moneybecomes available and the rights-of-way acquired.

The Jackson-Liberty Road project is projected to costapproximately $2 million, while the Pricedale Road project isexpected to be half that amount.

The officials also requested the lawmakers’ assistance insecuring some funding to move into phase two on the renovation ofthe Lincoln County-Brookhaven Government Complex.

Phase two is projected to cost approximately $500,000, Moaksaid.

“That would mostly be for the air conditioning and thechillers,” he said. “They’re getting in bad shape due to age. It’spretty costly.”

Chillers, Moak said, are large vats used to chill water as itcirculates through the system to aid the cooling process. Thechillers at the courthouse are in very bad shape, he said.

The county is now in the final stages of implementing phase oneof the courthouse renovation project by installing new flooringthroughout much of the building. The $480,000 federal grantreceived two years ago also replaced the courthouse roof andrenovated the entrances.

“Realistically, we know we’re not going to get all that we askedfor, but we have received pretty good chunks of money for roadsbefore and we certainly have received money for the courthouse,”Bishop said.

While county officials cannot rely on their proposals beingfunded, they are optimistic.

“We thought we had a very good reception from the staff. Theytook a lot of notes,” Moak said.

Bishop agreed.

“You never really know how successful they are until theappropriations are made,” Bishop said. “However, we feel we saw thepeople we needed to see and made the presentations we needed tomake.”

Past visits to Washington have proven how successful thecounty’s two trips to the Capitol a year can be, he said.

“It certainly offsets the expense of going,” Bishop said. “Wehave received $6-7 million in federal funding since 2000 directlyassociated with trips to Washington made by the board. One thingsfor sure – if you don’t ask for it, typically you don’t getit.”