At last: Morgantown Road project going out for bid

Published 11:29 am Saturday, April 1, 2023

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NATCHEZ — First as a city alderman and now as a county supervisor, Ricky Gray for more than two decades has been part of an effort to make Morgantown Road safer for residents and visitors who have to travel it daily.

After numerous roadblocks, it seems the project is going to happen now.

Gray attended Tuesday’s meeting of the City of Natchez Board of Aldermen to witness one of the final steps needed for the project to proceed.

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The City of Natchez Board of Aldermen, which is part of the project with Adams County, approved sending the project out to bid on Tuesday night.

“After conversations with consulting engineers at IMS Engineering, we are requesting to advertise for Phase 2 of the drainage and reconstruction project,” said James Johnston, the city’s community development director.

Phase 2 of the two-phase project will be completed first, county supervisors said at their last meeting.

The Morgantown Road reconstruction is expected to total nearly $4.5 million. Funds for the project will come from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality municipality and county water infrastructure grant program of 2022, county and city American Rescue Plan Act funds and $1 million of state ARPA funds, as well as a federal earmark for the project of $2.4 million.

Alderman Ben Davis, whose fifth ward includes Morgantown Road, made the motion to approve Johnston’s request.

“I know Alderman Davis has been biting at the bit for this to happen,” Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said.

Long-time Alderman Billie Joe Frazier, who represents the city’s second ward, said he was happy to see the project go to bid.

“To the citizens of the county and the city, we are finally moving full steam ahead on this project. It’s something that is long overdue. I can honestly say we are going to get Morgantown Road repaired,” Frazier said.

Ward 1 Alderman Valencia Hall thanked the Gregg Harper of Watkins & Eager, the lobbying group that represents the city and county, for their work on the project.

Harper and his staffers are credited with successfully lobbying the state’s congressional delegation, which led to the $2.4 million federal earmark for the project.

Gibson thanked Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, “and particularly Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, who in a very determined fashion made sure we got the $1 million in the form of state ARPA funds, which we needed to move forward with the project.”

Gibson also complimented officials at the engineering firm IMS Engineering, which is the engineering firm chosen as consultants for the project, which he said “are right on task. I know they are doing a great job. Give a hand. We are bidding Morgantown Road.”

Adams County Board of Supervisors President Warren Gaines said the community should know the reconstruction of Morgantown Road has been a priority of county supervisors for more than 20 years.

“It wasn’t until we received the $2.4 million federal earmark money that we could do the project the way it needs to be done,” Gaines said.

He said the second phase of the project is going first because funding for it through the Department of Environment Quality Grant is ready to be used.

“We are still waiting on MDOT for some documents for the first phase. But it should be ready to go just as phase two is complete. There should be no lag time,” he said.

“I would like to thank the Mayor and Board of Alderman and all of the county supervisors for working together to get this project done.”

Residents are seeing paving work take place on roads in the Morgantown area right now, which is part of the county’s $8 million paving project. That project is expected to wrap up countywide in about three weeks, said District 1 Supervisor Wes Middleton.

The Morgantown Road reconstruction project will begin in the area of the CVS pharmacy and will continue to Second Street. The county’s ongoing paving project is paving Morgantown Road from Second Street to Myrtle right now.