Thursday, June 23, 2005

• Byhalia chamber
Minor reports on highways

By SUE WATSON
Staff Writer

Rep. Tommy Woods, Transportation Commissioner Bill Minor and Sen. Ralph Doxey made brief presentations on such topics as highway progress and the state budget, and answered questions during last week’s Byhalia Area Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Woods announced that a special session of the legislature has been called for June 28 to “deal with some economic development issues.”

He said he thinks Highway 309 through Byhalia is closer to getting funded for repair.

Minor reported on highway projects. He said the Mississippi Department of Transportation and Mississippi Development Authority will work together to get the balance of funds needed to complete Holly Springs’ bypass road.

“They (Marshall County) have $3.2 million and need $3.5 million,” Minor said.

All documents for the environmental study for Highway 269 (I-69) construction from Collierville to Hernando should be on file by September 1, he said. The next step will be to connect Highway 302 to the Chickasaw Trails Industrial Park area and extend 269 on to Hernando and Tunica.

“We have problems on 302 with traffic and will do everything we can to speed it up,” he said. “We will try to work all the projects simultaneously to expedite them.”

Minor said the state has been working with Washington for three years to get I-69 funding passed but Congressional funding has been slower than desired.

The footwork also takes time. It has taken one year to complete the necessary environmental studies for 269 connecting from Tennessee to Interstate 55 and purchasing right-of-way and moving power lines is taking another year. He said the entire project from Memphis to Greenville is expected to take from eight to 10 years to complete.

Minor said the $80 million to complete conversion of Highway 78 to I-22 has been approved. Designating 78 as an interstate highway made it possible to pay for 90 percent of the work with federal dollars. MDOT will pay 10 percent and agree to mow the right-of-way, he said. Another interstate project on the Gulf Coast will connect I-10 to Jackson.

Minor said public comments made it possible to get the B-1 alternate chosen as the trajectory for Interstate 269 from the Tennessee line to Interstate 55. He stressed the importance of community involvement in the planning process and public comment periods of highway projects.

“If MDOT has a hearing, go and voice your opinion,” he said. “They went exactly with what the people wanted on B-1.”

Minor said interstate corridors and good connections to other existing transportation corridors are the driving force in economic development in Mississippi.

Senator Doxey said state deficit spending is being reduced from between $700 million and $800 million as of January 1 by cutting spending 1.7 percent last year and by some increases in revenues. He said the deficit is expected to be around $85 million next January as a result of efforts to reduce it.

“You run Mississippi like you run a business,” he said. “If you don’t have the money, you don’t spend it.”

Reelected Byhalia mayor, Scooter Dempsey, thanked the community for a great turnout in the municipal election at last week’s Chamber luncheon.

He recognized the service of outgoing aldermen Dot Childress and Bill Dawson and welcomed on board new members Phil Malone, Richard Minor and Terry Sawyer. Incumbents Mike Hamblin and Bob Carrington were also reelected to new terms.

Chamber executive director Sarah Sawyer praised Byhalia for its strong and sustained volunteer efforts which she said “makes the Chamber what it is and the benefits we provide.”

She read a letter from Van P. Finger praising retired school teacher Waurene Going for her positive influence on his life. The letter came to the Chamber following the tapping of Going as Staff Member of the Year by the Chamber in April.

Sawyer said the first Marshall County LeadershipPlenty class is about to graduate and another class will be sought out for training.

“We are seeking applicants for next year and persons interested in serving on the steering committee,” Sawyer said.

Ronnie Luther thanked the Chamber and community for pitching in to help organize and support the 2005 Clydesdale Festival taking place this week on Wednesday through Saturday.

The event’s maiden voyage last year was troubled by rainy weather.

“It is going to be quite a big event if we just don’t get the rain,” Luther said.

Sawyer announced that $250 donations are being solicited for new ornamental historic street and stop signs for the town of Byhalia. So far eight individuals and businesses have made donations, Dempsey said.


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