Road Battle Could Include Borrowing Money

 


COFFEEVILLE – Last Friday was one of the good days for the county road crews, the recent sunshine and wind had helped dry out some areas and work was underway.  In District 3, Supervisor Kenny Harmon and his crew were working on a bridge on County Road 53 after dirt around the headwall had eroded. The problem was a safety hazard for motorists and can also damage the bridge structure.

Harmon’s crew had already performed a similar repair on a bridge on County Road 225, using metal to build a wall under the edge of the bridge where it meets the road to keep dirt from washing out and creating a void underneath.  The maintenance is part of the work road crews across the county tackle on almost a daily basis.  Heavy rain back during the winter probably didn’t help, but the road and bridge work is an ongoing battle. It’s also a battle that is limited by the funds each beat receives annually.

Harmon noted last Friday that the amount of money he has spent since taking office in January has prompted input from other county officials – he will run through his budget.

Two days earlier, in the March 4 supervisor meeting at the Coffeeville courthouse, one option discussed was borrowing money when Board Attorney John Crow noted that bond interest rates are at an all-time low.

“You are going to get into an era of low, low bond interest rates,” Crow explained. “The feds are going to meet again next month and they are going to cut it again,” Crow added, noting that rates could dip into the two percent range.

That discussion wasn’t the first time supervisors had discussed borrowing money to jumpstart work on roads and bridges across the county. Last August, outgoing supervisor Lee McMinn suggested supervisors consider borrowing money against a new revenue stream that started flowing to the county in 2020. McMinn stressed that roads in District 3 and District 4 are failing and the cost to fix them will increase exponentially over time.

Nearing the end of his second, four-year term as supervisor during that August meeting, McMinn reflected on a $250,000 bond for District 3 proposed by his predecessor in 2008 to reseal roads before they fail and require complete milling and repaving. The bond was defeated by the voters in District 3 during a contentious election, but McMinn said hindsight indicated that $250,000 would have saved a lot of miles of road during the last decade.

The new revenue stream cited by McMinn comes after state lawmakers passed multiple bills to fund road and bridge work during a special session in 2019. The legislation included the Mississippi Infrastructure Modernization Act, which created an ongoing stream of money through revenue created by the state’s seven percent use tax on online sales, along with the new tax for hybrid and electric cars and other sources.

The funds will be phased in over a four-year period for counties and municipalities and Yalobusha County will received an estimated $428,028 annually starting in 2023. During the phase-in period, the county will receive approximately  25 percent of the allocation in 2020; 50 percent, $214,014 in 2021; 75 percent in 2022; and the full $428,028 each subsequent year. 

In February, the county received the first check from the new revenue stream, which was just over $70,000, and $14,075 was allocated to each of the five beats.

In last Wednesday’s meeting, supervisors contemplated the payment if $2 million was borrowed and divided equally among the five beats.

“We have that new money that is coming in,” Board President Cayce Washington said as the payment was calculated for one beat to repay $400,000 over a 10-year period at 2.5 percent interest – approximately $3,771 for 120 months. 

By then it was already after noon, supervisors had already hired Eddie Simmons as the county’s new environmental officer after a lengthy interview process with nine potential candidates and the meeting came to a close.

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