The money seems to have fallen into place for DeSoto County to move forward on major road and bridge improvements.
The Mississippi Transportation Commission Tuesday announced the release of $250 million in state Emergency Road and Bridge Repair Fund (ERBRF) projects in the state. A total of 163 projects to fix local roads and bridges under the funding will be covered by the action.
About $7.5 million will go to the Holly Springs Road project, money that is in addition to the recent U.S. Department of Transportation BUILD Grant award of $13 million for the work to straighten and raise the level of the oft-flooded roadway.
A bond issue covered by savings and the county’s debt capacity to make the project happen without raising taxes will also fund the project.
“All we need now is some dry weather,” said Supervisors Board President Lee Caldwell Tuesday afternoon. “We’re very excited, because this is a project that’s been 10 years in the making.”
In addition, two bridge projects in the county are being funded with the ERBRF money from MDOT. They are on Starlanding Road and on Stateline Road West in Southaven.
The county received nearly $1.475 million to aid in the bridgework on Starlanding Road. The city of Southaven will get about $1.99 million for a deteriorating bridge on Stateline Road West.
Northern District Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert said those projects chosen came from a pool of 690 applications for potential work that would have totaled nearly $1 billion.
“Although all applications contained important projects, those awarded will provide the greatest benefit to the state’s crippled infrastructure,” Tagert said.
Supervisors Tuesday also heard from Road Manager Andy Swims, who presented his department’s future plans for roadwork in the county.
Projects on the Road Plan in the next four years begin with Holly Springs Road, but they will also include improvements at Craft and Bethel roads, work on Nail Road from Hacks Cross to Polk Lane, Craft Road between Bethel to Hawks Crossing, Swinnea Road, Starlanding Road, and Armory Road from Starlanding to the new Armory site in Nesbit, along with a traffic signal with turning lanes at the intersection of Getwell and Pleasant Hill roads.
“We added more money to our Road Fund this year because we had so many needs,” Caldwell said.
Voters in one county voting precinct can plan to be voting at a new location this year, as supervisors approved an agreement for the Greenbrook South precinct to vote at Goodman Oaks Church of Christ in Southaven.
In past elections, voters had cast their ballots at Southaven Intermediate School, one of 10 county polling places that are housed in local schools, resulting in congestion in areas where voting and classes were taking place at the same time during school hours.
In last year’s general election, 2,027 voters cast their ballots at Southaven Intermediate and 1,756 voted there in the run-off election. By comparison, 2,647 voters went there in the general election of 2016.
Supervisor Mark Gardner, in presenting the agreement and voting figures to the board, suggested there be future discussions about changing other polling places to relieve the congestion of Election Day and school day taking place at the same time.
About 29 percent of registered DeSoto County voters are able to cast their ballots at polling places on school campuses.
Supervisors voted to purchase two surplus school buses from the DeSoto County School District, which will be retrofitted to place up to six cots inside each bus for crisis situations, such as the fatal bus crash that took place last November on I-269 near the U.S. Highway 78 interchange.
Two people on a tour bus from Alabama to the Tunica casinos died and at least 44 were injured when the bus slid off the icy roadway.
Josh Harper, Deputy EMA Director, said the accident heightened his department’s belief that vehicles to transport victims of major accidents such as that be made available.
“This event raised our sense of urgency,” Harper told the supervisors. “We got on the ball and started making some calls. These will be housed in our building and they’ll be maintained there.”
In other action, board members recognized Road Department employees celebrating five, 10, 15 and 25-year work anniversaries with the county.
The board also recognized Circuit Clerk Dale Thompson with a proclamation on a 50-year work anniversary with county government.
Thompson has been Circuit Clerk in DeSoto County for 18 years and was first hired by the county in June 1969. Thompson had been County Comptroller for many years before being elected as Circuit Clerk.
“I love my job, I love what I do,” Thompson said about her continuing work in county government.
The board also recognized the MHSAA 6A state football championship Horn Lake High School Eagles on their 15-0 season. The commendation was presented to coach Brad Boyette with the members of the team filling the boardroom.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.