County looks to expiring debt as way to repave, repair roads

Published 1:08 am Sunday, June 4, 2017

NATCHEZ — Adams County Supervisors have a plan they hope will make the area’s roads stand out as a shining example to the rest of the state.

With notes on expiring debt concluding over the next two years, supervisors hope to renew the debt to get most area roads up to par. A total of $3.15 million would be borrowed, $650,000 this year and $2.5 million next year.

After that, the board plans to dedicate $500,000 each year to ensure the county ends its cycle of borrowing to play catch up with roads.

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“We have to have opportunities to lay asphalt every year,” District 2 Supervisor David Carter said. “In the long term, it’s the only way to keep up.”

Board President Mike Lazarus said in the 10 years he has been on the board, the supervisors have facilitated approximately $5 million in road overlay projects, but the effort has primarily been in playing catch up.

“My hope is with the $650,000 we are spending this year, and the $2.5 million we are spending next year, we will be mostly caught up,” Lazarus said. “Then by budgeting $500,000 a year, we can finish catching up and stay caught up. Then we will not have to borrow money for roads going forward.”

The $500,000 per year would not require raising taxes, Lazarus said. He said the $500,000 would come from the money the county has budgeted for building the Liberty Park swimming pool, which has been hit with delays and looks to now have a completion date of summer 2018.

Lazarus said once the pool is taken care of, the money would still be available in the county’s budget going forward. He and other leaders figure the best use for the money is the county’s roads.

“From my perspective, Adams County’s roads are getting absolutely horrible,” Carter said. “Spending our money on roads is something I have been pushing a lot lately.”

District 3 Supervisor Angela Hutchins said every year heavy rains and heavy trucks moving on roads cause issues.

“We have so many roads that need attending to,” Hutchins said. “If each year we asphalt some roads, then we won’t have that build up of roads.

“Each year the roads are getting worse. If we go ahead and repair the roads during each year, then we won’t have to worry about borrowing money and paying interest.”

In addition to the plan, District 5 Supervisor Calvin Butler said two roads — Morgantown Road and State Park Road — are included in state aid projects that will see some improvements in the coming years.

The plan is expected to begin this month, with $650,000 worth of asphalt improvements around the county.

Road Manager Robbie Dollar will ultimately select the roads that will be improved. The county is on the unit system, which gives the road manager purview to select the roads.

Dollar could not be reached for comment, but District 4 Supervisor Ricky Gray said Dollar would be selecting from the county’s four-year road plan.

Every four years, the supervisors ride all of the county’s roads in all five districts and select the roads, without regard to the district, in need of repair. The county approved an update to the plan in February.

The plan lists more than 75 projects, and typically includes the estimated miles that need work and an estimated cost. Hutchins said amongst Dollar’s considerations would be the estimated cost, date the roads were added to the plan and the amount of traffic on the road.

Some of the oldest projects that are not listed to have any work complete are Stella Road, Old Washington Road, a portion of Lower Woodville Road and Jones Road. The newest addition is Cemetery Road.

Lazarus said some supervisors would also send Dollar a wish list for the upcoming $650,000 phase of the project. Lazarus said, for example, York Road is in his district and on the four-year road plan. However, the estimated cost to resurface it is $314,449.

Lazarus said York Road would likely have to wait until another round due to the cost, so he is proposing Mazique Lane and Pecan Way, which is in the city.

“It’s in the city so it is not on the four-year road plan,” Lazarus said. “I like to do a mix of the city and county to help as many people as possible.”

Butler said his district is mostly rural, with only two roads running through the City of Natchez. Butler said most of his roads are in need of repair.

Some Butler said roads he would like to see receive improvements include Airport Road, Low Water Bridge Road, Hobo Forks Road, Tate Road and White Oak Road, but he emphasized selection in the district would be up to Dollar.

“I know last time some people thought I picked the roads and got mad,” Butler said. “I know for sure due to state aid Morgantown Road and State Park Road are on the agenda to get done, but really, all my roads are bad.”

Not all of Butler’s roads have estimates on the four-year plan, but White Oak Road has an estimated cost of $56,250 and Hobo Forks an estimated cost of $112,500.

In District 2, Carter listed Jeanette Crossing, Lower Woodville Road and Greenfield Road for improvement.

Jeanette Crossing has an estimated cost of $95,000 and Lower Woodville Road has two projects listed, one for $2.2 million and another .2-mile stretch for $25,000.

Hutchins and Gray said they did not have wish lists because Dollar would select from the four-year list with his criteria.

“If I had a wish list, it would be all my roads,” Hutchins said.

Carter said he is glad the county is making a plan about dealing with the area’s poor road conditions, particularly with the oil industry looking to come back to the area.

“When it does come back, it will put more stress on the roads,” Carter said. “After all the trucks came through, Carmel Church Road, which had been a beautiful country road, was like a gravel road.

“I’m supportive of drilling, but we have to find a way to protect roads and homeowners when the industry does come back.”