Local match for Phase One of Morgantown Road funds approved: ‘We shouldn’t be debating it’

Published 2:28 pm Tuesday, October 18, 2022

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NATCHEZ — Adams County Supervisors are still deliberating on how they should expend approximately $5.9 million they’ve received from American Rescue Plan Act and $7.5 million from a bond for roads and bridges throughout the county.

However, during a Monday meeting, the supervisors agreed some of those funds are to be used to widen and resurface Morgantown Road.

In March, President Joe Biden signed a $1.5 trillion bipartisan spending plan that includes $2.4 million earmarked for Morgantown Road.

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The City of Natchez and Adams County Board of Supervisors have previously agreed to share the cost of a 20 percent match required to receive those funds and split it 60-40.

Supervisor Ricky Gray made a motion Monday that the county should allocate their portion, approximately $360,000, from the $7.5 million use tax bond they borrowed for roads and bridges, which passed unanimously. The $360,000, paired with $300,000 from the City of Natchez and the $2.4 million earmark, will be used for Phase One of a two-part road project, officials said. Last month, supervisors submitted an application to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality for a stormwater grant for the remainder of the project, since one of the road’s main issues is frequent flooding during heavy rains. Another $510,000 for the project would come from the ARPA funds if the county is approved for the grant, officials said.

Supervisor Kevin Wilson said the county needed to use its ARPA funds to pay down the county’s debt.

“We’re throwing away $25,000 tax dollars every month on interest,” Wilson said. “If we pay a big chunk of our debt down, the money will build up faster to be used for operations. … We have $5.9 million sitting there and if we let people come and nickel and dime us to death, we won’t have any of it. If we would pay off this debt, we wouldn’t have to fight over $1 pay raises anymore. … Pay this debt down and put the county on a lot firmer ground.”

However, Supervisor Angela Hutchins said the funds should be spent on a project that the public would be able to see.

“If you pay down debt, you’re not going to see this money. It’s gone,” Hutchins said. “Other counties did things they would be able to see 10 years from now. We won’t be able to see any of it.”

Gray said there should be no question about using some of the funds for Morgantown Road project, which has been an ongoing concern for the past two decades.

“We can use some of the money to pay down some debt and use some of the money on something that we can see for the next 10 to 15 years,” Gray said. “But I want the whole of Morgantown Road to be funded. We shouldn’t be debating it.”