Lincoln County residents want roads fixed – now

Mississippi Today complained in September 2021 that Mississippi was now “full of money” and not spending it, saying that “Speaker of the House Philip Gunn…has not publicly proposed any major spending or plans policy for ARPA money”.

Doug Falvey, chairman of the District 5 board, said he’s hearing residents say they’re concerned if anyone complains about finally receiving the funds or what they want them to be. used, the county could lose money.

“That’s what they’re asking me,” said District 3’s Nolan Williamson. “They’re saying why aren’t you spending that money? They are watching us.

Jerry Wilson of District 1 added a “yep” and a nod to that.

Wilson pointed to the desk in the room and said “why can’t he [state legislators] come here and talk to us? [Gunn] must come here. It’s ridiculous. We have to do something about it.

County Attorney Will Allen said they just have to tell the public that “we have to wait until they stop fighting (at the state level). We can’t do anything else about all this, but wait for them to understand and stop arguing.

Indeed, due to Mississippi’s quiet ingenuity in waiting and watching, many counties the roads may well be repaired after all.

And it’s not too early for some locals.

At Monday’s Lincoln County Board of Supervisors meeting, the issue of roads erupted in the room after Williamson mentioned receiving constant text messages claiming he wasn’t “spending fast enough” to fix some roads that social media posters wanted to fix.

Williamson’s frustration stems from social media posts and physical flyers from some Fox Road residents who described how they wanted their own road to be the focus of funding for the American Rescue Plan Act. The flyers asked affected residents to call or text Williamson and ask him to spend the money since “Lincoln County is looking to find needs for stimulus fund projects,” the officials said. flyers.

Supervisors aren’t looking for projects, they said; they have repeatedly said in recent meetings, which have been reported in The Daily Leader, that they have had enough on their slates. All of the supervisors’ wish lists were passed on to the state months ago, supervisors and county engineer Ryan Holmes said at Monday’s supervisors’ meeting.

Ironically, Fox Road is No. 1 on Williamson’s particular list, he said, and that, along with Melba Mason Road, always has been.

“The Fox and Melba Mason routes are the first two on my list,” Williamson said in response to those who seem to think supervisors have no idea where the funds are going. “I have 311 miles to consider (on the roads) and those two are my main consideration.

“But the public doesn’t know because we have to sit here and wait for these guys in the state legislature to stop arguing and release the money.

“I mean, it’s too bad that for the first time ever, this county has 100% of the money to do these roads, but we have to sit and wait. It’s just typical Mississippi politics and it’s so, so sad.

The problems that many counties and cities in Mississippi face if they want to use funds for roads and bridges are that the Mississippi legislature is still debating how to match state funds with county funds. .

“Mississippi House members are working out a framework for how they want to spend $1.8 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds, but seem content to wait until the end of the session to reveal the details,” a reported Mississippi Today a year ago.

Also, the House has passed bills since then, but has not actually put amounts in the bills.

The US Treasury sent the first funds on June 1, 2021. Subsequently, in January 2022, a change occurred that allowed entities to use the funds for roads and bridges. That means Lincoln County officials wisely waited to spend the first chunk of the money they got last summer on something else when it was still the roads they wanted to be. top priority.

The funds are now awaiting appropriation by the 2022 Mississippi legislative session pursuant to Mississippi House Bill 109. They remain in a special fund in the public treasury until they are suitable for use in accordance with ARPA.

Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann recently said waiting any longer to determine how the funds will be spent will be money out of Mississippians’ pockets.

“Record inflation could be an even bigger problem” for ARPA funds, he said. “Every day we fail to spend these funds, the cost of construction goes up and the value of our ARPA funds goes down. … If we wait another year to take ownership of ARPA, we have less time to complete the work and we have fewer contractors, subcontractors and civil engineers available. All states will all be competing for the same labor pool and we will be the last to start.

Over the past few weeks, supervisors have specifically mentioned how they want to use all of the funding for roads and bridges. The leaflets in question at Monday’s meeting appeared to reflect petitioners’ misunderstanding of recent Daily Leader articles specifically stating that supervisors had paving plans for each district, but until the federal government finally agreed what the money could be spent on, supervisors could not spend on roads and bridges.

However, when it came to voicing concerns, at least two people heavily involved in public petitions declined to comment publicly on their concerns over their Fox Road paving issues. One of the people who asked not to be identified said the group wanted Fox Road covered or repaved, saying nothing had been done in over 40 years.

Williamson said that on the roads he wants to repair, a serious problem is that there have been 400 to 500 acres of forest land that have been cut, which is equivalent to 16 to 20 trucks carrying four to five loads of logs. per day. “These roads aren’t made for that,” he said, frustration evident in his voice. “It’s going to cost over a million dollars to overlay [Fox Road] end to end,” he said, mentioning that he wished he could get things done immediately.

County Administrator Daniel Calcote said supervisors made their lists some time ago, aware of the needs of their districts. “It takes a lot of planning, but they know their neighborhoods,” he said. “They need to make sure, though, that their plans fit within federal rules.” He added that Holmes had worked with entities to get the ball rolling on early projects.

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