Leaders say Rex road project OK’d for federal money

Published 6:00 pm Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Following some anxious moments over funding uncertainty, LincolnCounty officials said Tuesday a road project for Rex Lumber Companywill receive a promised federal appropriation.

Federal officials had earlier informed county and city officialsthat a $650,000 Economic Development Administration grant would notbe funded because of federal budget questions. However, CountyEngineer Ryan Holmes informed county leaders that he had been toldby representatives from U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker’s office that thegrant would go through.

“That was really good news,” said Chancery Clerk TillmonBishop.

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In the joint city-county project, $650,000 was expected to comefrom the Mississippi Development Authority and another $650,000from the federal level. The $1.3 million project is to upgrade theold Behan Road to the new Rex Lumber Company, which is expected toemploy more than 100 people and start operations in the nearfuture.

However, when the availability of the federal funds became anissue, city and county leaders opted to each seek $325,000 loansfrom MDA to provide the needed funds for the project. The reasonfor that, said Board of Supervisors President Doug Moak, was thatthe time for using the MDA grant funds was running out.

“We kind of got in a bind over the MDA grant to accompany this,”said Moak about the federal funds.

Bishop indicated the loan move was unfortunate but necessary.

“We were about to go into debt for that $650,000,” he said.

The reason for concern with that move, he said, was local entities’ability to assist industries when they consider locating in the newLinbrook Business Park.

“We don’t need to be in any more debt than we need to be prior tothat time,” Bishop said.

Bishop said local officials were willing to do what was necessaryto accommodate and assist a new local industry, and for theeconomic development opportunities it would provide.

“When you’ve got a chance to get an industry providing over 100jobs, the investment is well worth it,” Bishop said.

The federal funding question came up during a trip to Washington,D.C., by county officials two weeks ago. Moak said officials spokewith members of Mississippi’s congressional delegation about thematter and he was appreciative of their help in getting itresolved.

“We think this is a good result of our trip to Washington,” Moaksaid.

City Clerk Mike Jinks, who is handling the details of the jointproject, said he had not received any written confirmation of thefederal funding approval. However, he said he had heard the sameinformation supervisors had.

“I’m encouraged that I heard it,” Jinks said.

Moak said the project, which is being handled by city engineersWilliford, Gearhart and Knight, is ready to move along.

“This was very important to us,” Moak said. “We were pleased to beable to work with the city to help them fix that road.”