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Bridge Bond Will Not Increase Taxes

By David Howell

The wheels are turning on issuing general revenue bonds to help fund the county’s portion of the Gums Crossing bridge replacement. Supervisors adopted a resolution of intent at Monday’s meeting to borrow $2.5 million. The good news is that the tax levy needed to make the annual payment will not trigger a tax increase. Instead a 20-year bond for courthouse improvements will be retired this year and that tax levy will shift to pay for the new bonds issued for the bridge.

The bad news is that nobody wants to borrow money for this project, especially the Board of Supervisors.  With that said, it would be appropriate to add that all of us  can be guilty of jumping to conclusions without knowing details of an entire situation. This bridge bond is no exception, and maybe on the surface it appears that the decision to borrow $2.5 million was not the best choice for supervisors or the county.

It’s not that simple. For starters, the county officials who routinely gather around the board table – the five supervisors, board attorney and chancery clerk – have agonized about this project for two years. Every available funding option has been pursued to try to limit the county’s portion of $20-million plus project.  The topic surfaces at each meeting as ideas are explored. And county officials continue to reach out for different funding sources.

But with the monthly bills steadily coming in for the project, the county could not wait any longer  to borrow the money without risking cash flow issues. Although the county is only responsible for 20 percent of the cost of the project, the county is required to pay the entire amount on each monthly bill before the 80 percent is reimbursed from the Mississippi Department of Transportation. The reimbursements comes back to the county within weeks of each monthly payment, but it still takes a lot of funds to cover county’s share of the project –  the 20 percent – and cash flow the entire project for a short period.

There was obvious concern at Monday’s meeting that there will be opposition in the county for the bonds. The bridge is located in District 5, represented by supervisor Gaylon Gray.

During the meeting Gray likened someone who against the bond to someone who is against their neighbors in the county who are suffering every day. He revisited the daily struggle for people who live across Skuna River and are cut off from the rest of the county, hundreds of Yalobusha County residents who are forced to take a lengthy detour each day. Or the delayed response for medical and law enforcement calls, long school bus rides for children, and countless other disruptions.

Gray said the daily detour includes two choices, often dictated by the weather. The short-long detour is through miles and miles of gravel roads in Calhoun County, tough roads that can almost be impassable during the winter when logging is underway in the  area. The long-long detour includes a route coming west on Hwy. 8, coming all the way around Grenada Lake, before turning north on Hwy. 7 and heading back toward Coffeeville.

Adding insult to injury is that on a clear day some residents can almost see the town of Coffeeville from the high ridge on the other side of Skuna River.

Gray also lamented the fact that few understand the struggle outside the small area that spans portions of three counties – Yalobusha, Calhoun and Grenada. Folks don’t understand the challenge the county is facing to help fund this project.

“A lot of people need to know, a poor little county like ours is struggling,” he simply said. The exasperation was evident for Gray and the other supervisors as they voted unanimously for the bridge bond resolution.

By David Howell

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