Copeland returns from D.C.

Published 11:57 pm Sunday, February 15, 2009

VIDALIA — Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland believes his recent trip to Washington, D.C., was the best ever.

Along with local officials from Natchez and Ferriday, Copeland was one of the delegation from Vidalia in the nation’s capital for the twice-yearly meeting of the El Camino Corridor Commission.

The commission meets once a year in a community along the corridor — which runs along U.S. 84 from Brunswick, Ga., to El Paso, Texas — and once a year in Washington, D.C., to lobby for funds to finish the four-laning of the corridor.

Email newsletter signup

“We felt very encouraged in our conversations with out Congressional delegation,” Copeland said.

There will be money in the stimulus package for highway infrastructure programs, he said.

“We feel we have a good chance on that because the other states are 80-90 percent complete,” he said.

But while they were there, the local leaders weren’t going to pass up an opportunity to lobby for local projects, and the project that Copeland focused on was the proposed Port of Concordia, located near the second Vidalia industrial park.

That meant meeting with leaders from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to discuss a new location 1,500 feet away from the current proposed area for the port to alleviate some concerns the Corps of Engineers have, Copeland said.

“We will work hand-in-hand with the Corps of Engineers to develop the location,” Copeland said. “Hopefully we will be able to get the project from the drawing board to the ground.”

Though it was not a major topic of discussion during the trip, the Vidalia marina, currently under construction, could be affected by the events that were unfolding in Washington, D.C., at the time of the mayor’s trip.

“They are not going to earmark anything in particular right now (for funds from the stimulus package), but we are hoping that they will umbrella a lot of that funding into certain areas like ports and marinas and boat launching areas,” Copeland said.

And being in the city while the stimulus package was being debated and voted on was a highlight of the trip for Copeland.

“We were talking with Sen. Mary Landrieu, and as she was getting ready to vote, she asked if we would like to ride the train from (the building where we were) to the Senate building,” Copeland said. “We were in the gallery while they voted on the package. I really enjoyed that experience.”