Parks, road project help tops county wish list

Published 5:00 am Thursday, March 19, 2009

Lincoln County officials will seek $5.8 million in federalassistance for six local projects during their annual meeting withMississippi’s congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. nextweek.

Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop said county officials would meetwith Sens. Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran, as well Reps. GreggHarper and Travis Childers about federal funding for the sixprojects, which range from the development of Linbrook BusinessPark to the construction of baseball fields. Bishop, twosupervisors and a county engineer depart for Washington Monday andare to return Wednesday.

The most expensive item on the county’s list is the potentialcreation of the Lincoln County Park and Sports Complex, a $1.8million project that would develop approximately 20 unused acres inthe old Brookhaven Industrial Park into RV spaces and baseballfields. Bishop said the project would tie into similar constructionefforts already under way at the Lincoln County Multi-PurposeComplex.

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Bishop said the plan calls for the construction of 50 RVhookups, a 300-space parking lot and several baseball fields, aswell as restrooms and other facilities. He said the new site wouldbe managed by Lincoln Sports, a group of community baseballers whouse the old fields on a site connected to the Keystone Senecabuilding.

“A huge number of families use that space. It gets them out,”Bishop said of baseball, pointing to the development of baseballfields as a “piece of the puzzle” in economic development.

The second-highest cost on county officials’ list is federalassistance for repairs to Industrial Park Road, the badly damagedmain thoroughfare into the Brookhaven Industrial Park. The projectwas recently turned down for stimulus funding, and Bishop said thecounty is seeking $1.5 million for the job.

“Some items you ask for, you have to do it whether they help youor not,” he said. “We’ve got hundreds of employees working in theindustrial park, and that road has to be maintained.”

County officials are seeking $1 million each for the third andfourth projects on their list for the development of a hurricaneevacuation route and the completion of Linbrook Business Park.

The Bogue Chitto Road Project would see Bogue Chitto Roadwidened from Exit 30 on Interstate 55 to its intersection withHighway 51 in Bogue Chitto, allowing contraflow traffic an earlyout from the interstate and an alternate entrance to Brookhaven,Bishop said. He pointed out that Brookhaven is the first stop forLouisiana evacuees to find food and lodging.

As work on Linbrook Business Park comes closer to completion,county officials are asking for a further $1 million for levelingand grading work, Bishop said. The federal government has alreadyprovided $1.2 million for the park’s creation, he said.

“We’re just talking about leveling and grading work in differentareas for aesthetics, so if a potential employer drives up, it willbe all but ready,” Bishop said.

County officials will seek $500,000 for upcoming renovations tothe courthouse annex – the office building on Second Street soon tobe vacated by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries andParks and utilized by the Lincoln County Tax Assessor’s office.Bishop pointed to prior success in securing $900,000 in federalassistance for renovations in the Lincoln County-BrookhavenGovernment Complex and the Boys and Girls Club of Lincoln Countybuilding.

Bishop said county officials would also request an uncertainamount of federal funding for the development of electronic medicalrecords at King’s Daughters Medical Center.

County officials don’t expect to get federal funds for everyproject on the list, Bishop said, but making the annual trip is thebest way of connecting with the state’s federal authorities.

“If we don’t tell them our needs, they wouldn’t know,” he said.”Most of the counties that go up there are the ones who get help. Ipromise you we have received much more money in return than it hascost to go.”

District Four Supervisor Doug Moak, who will accompany DistrictThree Supervisor Nolan Earl Williamson in representing the board inWashington, said securing funds for repairs to Industrial Park Roadwould be his top priority, followed by the Bogue Chitto RoadProject and additional support for Linbrook. Moak, who will bemaking his fourth trip to Washington as a supervisor, stressed theimportance of meeting with federal officials.

“It is definitely to our advantage to sit down with ourlegislators and let them see faces from Lincoln County,” he said.”For us to be able to sit there on the same couch and speakeye-to-eye, I think it has more impact on their decision makingprocess.”

Dungan Engineering, PA Civil Engineer Ryan Holmes will make hisfirst trip to Washington with supervisors, serving as a technicaladviser to provide federal legislators with the nuts and bolts ofprojects, like judging the scope and cost of work.

“We have great knowledge of the projects,” he said of his firm.”The supervisors know the needs, and we can explain why these needsshould be met and why we need help with them. We’re there fortechnical expertise.”