Meridian Star

December 5, 2012

City street project to move forward

By Terri Ferguson Smith /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     A multi-million dollar street improvement project will get under way now that bids have been approved for the project.

    The Meridian City Council on Tuesday approved a bid by APAC for $3.2 million to do the city’s street project that is being funded through a $4.5 million bond issue passed in 2011.

    The project has been delayed because the first bids came in too high, according to Dr. George Thomas, president of the Meridian City Council.

    “We originally bid it and it came in over the budgeted amount,” Thomas said. “We had more streets than we had money so we went back and cut some streets out of it to make it within the budget.”

    Work should start within the next week, he said and APAC will have 120 days to complete the project.

    A previous paving project earlier this year was done by the county and through some state dollars, Thomas said.

    “This is the bond issue money. We’ll have about $800,000 to $1 million left after this bid so we’ll probably come back and do some more,” Thomas said.

    Council members want to see final plans for a $1 million pedestrian enhancement project for a historic part of downtown. Approval for the mayor to sign all necessary documents to go forward with the project, funded by a grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation, was on the agenda, but the Council added wording to the order. The approval is pending the final plans to be approved by the Council.

    “We want them to get through the negotiations and all of that, but we want to see the final plan of what’s exactly going to be done before it’s done,” Thomas said. “We don’t want any plan approved that the council hasn’t seen. We’ve agreed to the concept. We’ve agreed to accept the money. We want the specifics now.”

    The funds, presented in October by MDOT Commissioner Dick Hall, are part of a Transportation Enhancement Program (TEP) grant and will be used for a streetscape and pedestrian project. The project is geared toward improving and upgrading the street side aspects of a four block area of the African American Business District in hopes of bringing the area up to the level of aesthetic appeal of the rest of the downtown area.

    In an effort to save about $1 million over a 14-year period, the City Council also authorized refinancing of some old bond issues.

    Demery Grubbs, financial consultant, told the City Council it could save the money by getting a lower interest rate. The bond issues to be refinanced funded water and sewer improvements, Thomas said.

    The Council also unanimously approved a $6,000 donation to Weems Community Health Center for its participation in the Making A Change Program. The funds will help pay for transportation costs related to the program, which provides classes and counseling for troubled youth who have been expelled from the Meridian Public School District.