DeSoto County Supervisors Monday approved sending in a request to the Mississippi Department of Transportation for State Aid Road funds to help with phases of a long-stalled Holly Springs Road project that would elevate bridges above 100-year flood levels and potentially stabilize erosion in the Coldwater River basin.
A disastrous 2011 flood event caused major portions of Holly Springs Road to cave in, leading to the closing of the road for several months.
Several proposals range from $15 to $30 million if done in phases and local county officials remain hopeful that a federal TIGER grant could help defray some of that cost.
However, competition for TIGER grants, or Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) is fierce.
TIGER grants are part of a supplementary discretionary grant program included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The legislation provided $1.5 billion for a National Surface Transportation System "to be awarded on a competitive basis for capital investments in surface transportation projects."
In the recent past, the City of Natchez was awarded a $10 million TIGER grant to rebuild a railroad bridge, the only project in Mississippi to receive such a grant.
"I've been on the board for six years and we've been going to Washington for help on this," District 2 Supervisor Mark Gardner said. "We've been going to Jackson asking for help on this for six years. We can't keep going to Washington or Jackson with our hand out. It's our problem."
The Board of Supervisors made a recommendation to request State Aid funds for the project.
"It's a very expensive project," consulting engineer Tracy Huffman told supervisors. "Likely what we do will be there forever."
Huffman suggested out loud the Board could "spend a year" making an argument for a TIGER grant to put the county in the best position to receive a grant.
For more than 30 years, the realignment and safety upgrade of Holly Springs Road across the Coldwater River bottoms has been a priority.
Nothing has come of the way of federal dollars for the project.
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to face a direct appeal again for federal funding of the project.
"It's only going to get worse," Gardner observed.
District 3 Supervisor Bill Russell said any federal investment in safety and infrastructure improvements could be a catalyst for economic growth.
"That area is subject to be opened for new development," Russell said.
If federal funds are slow or nonexistent, it's possible the county could, in the future, appropriate up to $10 million toward the project.
However, no decision to that effect has been made.
In other matters Monday, the Board of Supervisors was informed of a court decree by Circuit Judge Gerald Chatham that directs the Board of Supervisors to grant a 15-year operating permit for a controversial gravel pit operation in the Lewisburg area of District 1.
The Board of Supervisors originally denied approval of the gravel pit operation by Standard Construction.
The matter was appealed in Circuit Court and Chatham subsequently directed the Board of Supervisors to issue the permit.
Board attorney Tony Nowak said he will likely argue in favor of a stay of Chatham's order.
"I can't make any promises but I feel we have a strong case for appeal," Nowak said.
Also Monday, DeSoto County Environmental Services Manager Ray Laughter said this year's DeSoto County Household Hazardous Waste Day was a tremendous success, with a total of 300 total vehicles which passed through the collection area.
"We took in more waste than I ever have a record of us taking in," Laughter said. "There was a steady flow of aerosols and paint coming in. Our citizens are doing the right thing and look forward to the event every year."
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at email@example.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.