DeSoto County is asking Southaven and the rest of the cities in the county to share in the cost of the annual membership fee for the Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Mayor Darren Musselwhite told the Board of Aldermen that the total fee for the MPO is $185,314 and of that, the county is asking Southaven to contribute $25,066.
“We don’t have to vote on it tonight,” Musselwhite said. “I just wanted to inform you about it and then we can in the near future vote on it again.”
The MPO is a federally mandated transportation policy-making organization made up of representatives from local government and transportation officials. The organization is funded by the federal government and helps plan and pay for regional infrastructure projects. DeSoto County and Southaven are part of the Memphis Urban Area MPO which encompasses Shelby and Fayette County in Tennessee, and DeSoto and Marshall County in Mississippi.
Ward 6 Alderman Raymond Flores asked where in the budget the city would appropriate the money from.
“Where will we pull it from? What line item?” Flores said.
Musselwhite said the city could either take the money from the capital improvements line item or use surplus money.
“In the budget we do have a capital improvements line,” Musselwhite said. “We could take it out of there, or we could wait and if we see a potential surplus throughout the year, we can just do a budget amendment. A lot of times we will find out our sales tax revenue is higher than we projected, and if we see a trend like that we can just do a straight up budget amendment.”
Ward 2 Alderman Charlie Hoots asked if the city has paid the fee in the past.
“Mayor, didn’t we ask them last year to go ahead and pay it?” Hoots said.
Musselwhite confirmed that the city did not share the MPO fee last year, but said it was because the request came in after the city had already set its budget.
“I think it was the timing of it,” Musselwhite said. “We had just set the budget. And in the Council of Governments meeting there were some other mayor who questioned the timing of it. So that’s what halted it. But yes, this board voted not to do that last year.”
Ward 3 Alderman William Jerome asked Musselwhite to explain how the city benefits from the MPO.
“What do they do for us?” Jerome said.
Musselwhite said the MPO has been a very valuable organization that has helped the city with many transportation projects, including the widening of Getwell Road south from Church Road to Star Landing that will soon get underway. The project cost $9.5 million, but will be paid for by an 80-20 split with the federal government.
“It’s federal money that is allocated to a metro area,” Musselwhite. “That federal money goes to the entire Memphis metro. Then all of the cities and counties make applications for projects. If we submit a project and we show traffic counts and the need, you submit an application to the MPO on what you want and how much you want. Then its awarded based on the merit of it. It’s huge.”
The MPO also funded the McIngvale interchange along I-269 that greatly helped Hernando; the resurfacing of Church Road between I-55 and Hwy. 51; as well as the planning for the pedestrian trail around Snowden Grove, and Nail Road widening with a cut through to Swinnea.
“It’s really valuable to all of us for projects that are too big for us,” Musselwhite said. “A $10 million project, cities don’t have the budget for that.”
Musselwhite said although Southaven contributes $21 million in revenue to DeSoto County, it’s up to the board whether they believe the city should share the cost for the MPO fee or whether the county should pay the whole cost.
“We pay a large amount of money to the county,” Musselwhite said. “There is no doubt about that. I guess it is just philosophical whether you think they should pay or we should pay.”
Musselwhite added though that DeSoto County has paid for projects that benefit Southaven like the recent three-way partnership to resurface the roads at the Landers Center, as well as the McIngvale-Swinnea connection.
“That project, where Swinnea dead ends at Star Landing, on the south side where McIngvale comes north and are barely offset, there was tremendous value to the county and everybody as a whole to connect those two roads, because then you will have another access to I-269 from Southaven, and it also benefits Hernando greatly because consumers can get to south to Hernando a a lot quicker,” Musselwhite said. “Most of it is in the county, but there is a piece of that that is in Southaven, and the county has stepped up to pay for that. So there are some things that we work well together.”
Musselwhite said the MPO has greatly helped Southaven and all of DeSoto County.
“All of the cities and counties benefit from it,” Musselwhite said. “You all know we have benefited from a lot of MPO money for transportation projects. Just be thinking about that. They have asked us to share in those dues.”