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Supervisors mull grant projects

Lincoln County residents will soon be given a chance to voicetheir opinions on a county improvement project when the board ofsupervisors hosts a public hearing to help determine which projectwill be considered for a community development grant.

During the coming weeks, the supervisors will weigh theimportance of their current projects and narrow down the selectionsfor the grant, which can only be awarded for a single project.

The condensed list of potential jobs will be presented to thecommunity at the hearing. A hearing date will not be establisheduntil after the board meets once more with the SouthwestMississippi Planning and Development District in two weeks.

SWMPDD Executive Director Wirt Peterson said the potential grantis designed to benefit low to moderate income individuals byproviding funds for public works projects, such as the repair andmaintenance of roads, infrastructure and public buildings.

“The county’s daily activities, projects and responsibilitieswould be eligible for this funding in most cases,” Peterson saidduring Tuesday’s board meeting. “You could use it for roads, waterand sewer, public buildings, fire protection – you might couldsqueeze in recreation, although it’s not normally funded.”

In considering the approval of the grant, one of the qualitiesthat SWMPDD examines in the application is the number of a proposedproject’s beneficiaries.

This is where the community’s input comes into play. Countyresidents will be able to help steer the supervisors toward theproject that will serve the greatest number, thereby increasing thecounty’s chances at being awarded the grant, which iscompetitive.

“There must be a detailed description of the project in theapplication – who will be served, who will benefit?” Peterson said.”The county must identify, in a map, the number of houses that willbe affected and complete a survey to show who the individualsare.”

Thus, the greatest number of people who supply their voice inthe hearing will give their district the greatest chance for havingthe grant, if awarded, applied to their area. If the projectapproved for the grant has a low number of beneficiaries, thecounty’s chance of securing the grant will be low.

“If the project only assists 10 people and you’re asking for$450,000, then the cost to beneficiary ratio will be so expensivethat the application would not be competitive,” Peterson said. “Allthese activities require public knowledge, public input.”

Supervisors discussed some of the projects already beingconsidered for the grant application, such as the repair of asewage leak on Ole Brook Road and further funding assistance forthe ongoing improvements at the Lincoln County Multi-PurposeComplex. Also being considered is the establishment of a seniorcitizens day care to be hosted at the complex.

“It’s kind of a tough decision,” said board president the Rev.Jerry L. Wilson. “I know we need that center for the elderly. Iknow we need a project for the sewage on Ole Brook Road. We alsohave erosion problems in my district and other certain things thatneed to be fixed. All of them are important. We’ll see what’s bestfor the county, and I’m with that.”

The repair of the sewage leak on Ole Brook Road will most likelyrequire a separate application from the city of Brookhaven, whichmaintains the sewer system. However the repairs are carried out,the supervisors are eager to see the problem solved.

Any work done at the multi-purpose complex, however, is entirelya county matter.

“Any help we can get out there at the multi-purpose buildingwould be great,” said District Three Supervisor Nolan EarlWilliamson. “We’re gonna have to wait and see what turns up.”

Williamson and the rest of the board will be comparing thevarious projects during the coming weeks, waiting to present themto county residents at the public hearing. However, past publichearings have shown community turnout to be low.

“It’s not that people don’t care or don’t get involved, it’sjust that they can’t get off work to attend,” Williamson said. “Weget a lot of phone calls, sure, but it’s hard for people to takeoff during the daytime and come to a hearing.”

Regardless, community involvement is not only encouraged butrequired before the county can put the finishing touches on thegrant application.

Besides the number of beneficiaries of a proposed project,SWMPDD examines other qualities of the application. Fundingpotential is important for acquiring the grant, as it requires alocal match. The quantity of the match is not set – if the amountof local funds designated for a given project is not sufficient,the grant could be awarded to another county or city.

“There’s only so much money the state has, and each year thevalue of the applications exceeds available funds,” Peterson said.”The higher the local match, the better you score on theapplication. We like to see a 50-50 split, but that’s notabsolutely mandatory.”

Once the board next meets with SWMPDD and establishes the basicsof the grant application, the date and time of the hearing will beset.