Local leaders going to Washington, D.C.

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 31, 2009

VIDALIA — Local leaders will head to the nation’s capital this month to lobby for funds locally and along U.S. 84.

The El Camino corridor runs along U.S. 84 from Brunswick, Ga., to El Paso, Texas, and a group from the five states it connects has dedicated themselves to getting the length of the corridor four-laned.

“Having a four-lane all the way through our parish that would get us to all of the major cities that surround us would be key to industrial recruitment,” Concordia Parish Industrial and Economic Director Heather Malone said. “It would show that we have a good distribution corridor.”

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The group has two meetings a year, one in a municipality along U.S. 84, and the other in Washington, D.C., where the group meets with its congressional delegations to lobby for funds to complete the four-laning project.

But the local delegation isn’t just going to lobby for the El Camino program. They will also be lobbying for money for local infrastructure projects.

In Vidalia, that will be for the Concordia Parish port project.

“With the stimulus package being passed (by the U.S. House), there is money we are hoping will be available for local projects,” Mayor Hyram Copeland said.

Like a four-laned highway, the port will be a big draw for industrial recruitment, Malone said.

“It is located just across from the Vidalia industrial park and the Whitehall industrial land, and that’s going to be a huge tool for us to use,” she said.

Ferriday Mayor Glen McGlothin said he has several dire infrastructure projects that need funding.

Part of the lobbying he will do will be for $100,000 in funds to raise the weir on Old River, where the town gets its drinking water, McGlothin said.

“If we have deeper water, we have better water to treat,” he said.

And having good water is yet another important piece of the industrial recruitment puzzle, Malone said.

“Good water is a quality of life issue that is needed to recruit businesses to the area,” she said.

Another issue McGlothin will talk about with the congressional delegation about is finding money — approximately $1 million — to redo the sewer lines in the Lancaster Addition and East Ferriday.

“Those lines are broken, and people have sewage in their yards,” he said. “I wouldn’t want that and they don’t deserve it. We can’t afford it but we can’t afford not to do the work.”

While there is no promise that the trip will result in certain funding, spending time with the Washington delegation can’t hurt, McGlothin said.

“I am just going to put my name in the hat for consideration with the congressmen and senators, and I’m going to let them know I’m there,” he said.

Parish Engineer Bryant Hammett and Vidalia City Manager Ken Walker will also attend the conference.