• 68°

Officials discuss stimulus plan ‘wish list’

Brookhaven officials are prioritizing municipal needs in hopesof being able to capitalize on a federal economic stimulus packagecurrently being debated in Congress.

Aldermen at Tuesday night’s meeting discussed several projects,mostly infrastructure ventures, that could be pursued if thestimulus package goes through.

The federal $825 billion package could include up to $2.6billion for Mississippi. It is currently working its way throughCongress, and local officials say things are still hazy as to howthe money would be distributed.

Mayor Bob Massengill presented a priority list to aldermen thatincluded several crucial infrastructure needs. Some of the projectshave already been presented by local officials to the state’slawmakers in Washington.

Time is of the essence, Massengill said.

Williford Gearhart & Knight’s Mike McKenzie told the boardhis firm’s understanding of the 120-day deadline for projects to befunded if the stimulus package goes through was that the projectsare supposed to be “shovel ready” within 120 days.

The initial list includes the paving of Brookway Boulevard andthe Industrial Corridor as well as other areas throughout the city,two separate sewer projects on Union Street and IndependenceStreet, adding a fire loop in the Brignall area, erosion control inthe ditch from Minnesota Street south, the painting of water tanksin the city and a new fire truck.

The list tentatively totals roughly $7.1 million.

McKenzie said the only concrete data he had on the stimuluspackage is that the target to get it through is supposed to be Feb.19. He said the way funds will be distributed is still unclear,whether they will come straight to the city or be sent throughgrants.

“This gives us the crack in the door to let us think we’ll havethe money in the economy within 120 days,” he said. “That means youalmost have to have plans ready now.”

Officials voted unanimously to put the projects that require theleast preparation on a first list to get them in under the 120-daydeadline. They said they would put the sewer projects on a separatelist that could be ready in under 180 days.

“What we’ve been told is it has to be shovel-ready in 120 days,and there’s no way a major project like that can be done in 120days,” Massengill said about the sewer work.

The mayor added that his recommendation was to submit some formof the list, as well as touching base with Water DepartmentDirector Lanny Dickey and City Public Works Director Steve Moretonabout identifying areas with dire sewer needs.

“Let’s ID those and make that not the first thing we submit, butin addition to the other, because we can’t be shovel-ready in 120days,” he said.

The key is to have as much ready as possible when the money isreleased to the city, McKenzie said. That involves sending letterswith maps of the areas attached to the Corps of Engineers and theMississippi Department of Environmental Quality, among otheragencies.

“It takes at least three weeks to get an answer to those, so wecan go ahead and get that much out of the way for when the money isapproved,” McKenzie said.

The board discussed the fire loop in Brignall as well, becauseit was also a part of the instructions to the city during theannexation trial.

McKenzie said laying a fire loop is a much easier project thancorrecting sewer problems. He said the fact that easements andenvironmental studies are not needed in installing a fire loop is abig plus.

“What’s it going to take? It’ll be a lot easier than a sewerproject, because we can keep the (water) lines in existing roadrights of way,” he said.