Supervisors seek federal assistance for developments

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The proposed design for the expansion of Ridge Road as provided by County Engineer Les Dungan.

Several Pearl River County Supervisors and other county officials pleaded their case to members of the Mississippi delegation during a visit to the District of Columbia earlier this month.
During a supplementary Board meeting in January, the Board discussed several projects they wished to present to federal legislators, previous coverage states.
From Feb. 13 to 15, Supervisors Hudson Holliday, Farron Moeller and Donald Hart, County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin and Les Dungan, the county’s engineer, visited with Sens. Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran as well as Reps. Steven Palazzo and Gregg Harper and their respective staffs, Lumpkin said.
Board President Sandy Kane Smith was originally scheduled to accompany the group, but had to cancel due to a family matter. Hart took his place, Lumpkin said.
Dungan prepared presentations and packets about two county projects, the relocation and expansion of Ridge Road, and the construction of a county lake near Millard, Lumpkin said.
Holliday said the Dungan’s efforts in planning the presentations made a definitive impact on the county’s case.
With the new presidential administration, Lumpkin said the county believes there will be additional infrastructure development funds distributed across the nation.
“We wanted to make sure our name is in the hat and we’re not forgotten about,” he said.
The county received federal funding previously to develop a plan for the Ridge Road project, Lumpkin said.
“Now we’re at the point where we need money to acquire right of way and start construction,” he said.
The project will consist of two phases. The north phase would realign the existing road with Highway 43 to the east of the congested intersection near Walmart, while the south phase will improve the connection to Highway 607 toward Stennis Space Center, previous coverage states.
Lumpkin said the proposal was received well by legislators and the county will “continue to fight for it and push for it.”
“Honestly—and this is Hudson Holliday thinking—the federal government’s broke, I didn’t get a warm fuzzy feeling that we’re going to get the money,” Holliday said. “But it’s like going to buy a lottery ticket, it you don’t buy a ticket you’re not going to win.”
As far as the county lake project was concerned, Lumpkin said a number of regulatory changes in the past halted the project, but with President Donald Trump expressing interest in reducing those “regulatory ceilings,” Lumpkin said he hopes the project could gain traction.
Holliday said there are three factors involved in moving forward with the lake project: land, money and permits.
“This has been going on for 15 years, with nothing done during the last four years,” Holliday said. “That lake is the project that the Board could do that would forever change Pearl River County.”
The proposed 950-acre lake would be constructed mostly on old timberland near Millard owned by Weyerhauser Company, who is willing to work with the county, Holliday said.
While Holliday estimated the project could cost as much as $30 million, “that money is already sitting there from Washington, not being used,” Holliday said.
The lake was among a list of projects the state set aside $500 million in which to fund during Haley Barbour’s administration, Holliday said, but the money was never spent and “most of those other projects are not ever going to happen,” Holliday said.
The last hurdle the project faces is a half-million dollar environmental impact study requested by the Army Corps of Engineers, Holliday said.
In traveling to the nation’s capital, Holliday said the county was hoping to have the study waived because a $400,000 environmental assessment was already conducted in prior years.
“If we get the permit, the game’s on,” he said.
In total, the county spent about $5,000 on the trip for the flight, hotels, cab fare and meals, Lumpkin said.

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About Julia Arenstam

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