Two county projects miss out on stimulus money

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Additional highway maintenance funding funneled into Mississippifrom the federal stimulus package will not benefit Lincoln County,leaving two “shovel-ready” projects submitted for funding bysupervisors to either sit on the back burner or eat up precious,existing highway money, county officials said.

County Engineer Jeff Dungan, of Dungan Engineering, PA, toldsupervisors Monday that both of the county’s submitted roadprojects were turned down by the Office of State-Aid RoadConstruction, a division of the Mississippi Department ofTransportation that assists counties with highway maintenance.

“Basically, we’re back where we started,” Dungan toldsupervisors Monday.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Supervisors had hoped to use funds from the American Recoveryand Reinvestment Act of 2009 to complete the paving of CaseyvilleRoad in extreme western Lincoln County and resurface IndustrialPark Road in the city.

The Caseyville project would see the road’s eight miles ofgravel paved for the first time, connecting Highway 550 to FranklinCounty’s Highway 98. Supervisors have long wanted to repairIndustrial Park Road’s deep, water-holding ruts, sunken by years ofheavy truck traffic to and from the Brookhaven Industrial Park.

Supervisors still plan to repair the road, Dungan said, usingeither $350,000 in Surface Transportation Program funds or 20percent of the county’s $2 million State-Aid Road Constructionfunds.

The road is in too great a state of deterioration to forego theproject until next year, Dungan said. He cited the standing waterthat makes travel dangerous.

“It’s something we need to take care of, and I think we need todo it this year,” Dungan said. “With $400,000, we go a long waytoward getting it in good shape.”

District Five Supervisor Gary Walker said the Caseyville Roadproject might receive some stimulus funds, but they would comethrough allotments for the Homochitto National Forest. The roadgoes through the national forest.

Even that is not a given, Walker said.

“It’s just a wait and see deal,” he said. “I hope everybody canget a little piece of the pie, but I’m not gonna get my hopes up.I’m just gonna have a word of prayer and let it go.”

Southwest Mississippi Planning and Development DistrictExecutive Director Wirt Peterson said it was too early to tell ifLincoln or other Southwest Mississippi counties would receive anydirect stimulus funding. But so far, his office has not beennotified of any forthcoming money, he said.

“We’re expecting some money in for some additional childcareservices, hopefully some aging programs from our office, but as faras project money going to cities and counties, we have not heard ofany,” he said. “(Community Development Block Grant) will get some,but they have not prepared their guidelines on how cities andcounties can access that money.”

So far, supervisors are not expecting any stimulus help. And itappears Lincoln County won’t be the only one with projects leftunfunded in the wake of the $787 billion stimulus package.

Dungan said the Office of State-Aid Road Construction receivedonly $8 million in stimulus funding after requesting $88 million, anet of less than 10 percent.

Likewise, the Mississippi Department of Transportation requestedaround $600 million from the stimulus package and received $350million, almost 60 percent. Dungan said State-Aid officials willonly be able to fund approximately 10 road projects acrossMississippi with stimulus funds.

The meager contribution to State-Aid funding was a blow tosupervisors, who spent the whole of last year battling exorbitantfuel costs and skyrocketing material costs to work on fewer andfewer miles of road with a static funding supply

“There’s nothing we can do about it,” said District TwoSupervisor Bobby Watts, whose district encompasses the most heavilydamaged portions of Industrial Park Road. “We just hope for thebest all around, but it’s sad we didn’t get everything we wanted.We may have to cut back some and rearrange some things.”

Watts suggested the amount of Industrial Park Road that would berepaired would have to be shortened, a prospect Dungan mentioned atthe meeting. Supervisors had originally submitted a project forstimulus funding that would have fixed the road in its entirety,but now plan to use their limited funding to repair only the worstsections, likely those from near the Wal-Mart Distribution Centerwest to Highway 51.

“We need to go that far, anyway – I hope we can,” Watts said.”It’s gotten too dangerous. Something’s got to give. If you don’tlive here and go in it every day when it’s raining, it’ll throwyou.”

Board President the Rev. Jerry Wilson blamed the stimuluspackage’s low funding levels for State-Aid on Mississippi’sRepublican congressional leadership, who voted against the bill,and Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, who has criticized the bill andplans to reject portions of it.

Wilson believes the low funding afforded the state from thestimulus package is punishment for Republican leaders’opposition.

“It’s kind of bad, you know,” he said. “In tough times, we tryto work together and try to get things done. Quit trying to dosomething political and do what’s right for the people. Now, we’llhave to use the money we’ve got, and that’s very little.”