Meridian Star

February 2, 2014

County officials D.C. bound to seek funding

By Terri Ferguson Smith / tsmith@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — A planned trip to Washington D.C. this week could bring a boost for local projects.

    Four members of the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors will meet with Mississippi's congressional delegation to lobby for projects, including the purchase of the old federal building that houses Meridian's main post office.

    U.S. District Court is no longer being held there and county officials would like to purchase it from the federal government, according to Josh Todd, District 3 supervisor and board president. He is hoping the state's senior senator, Thad Cochran (R) will be able to help.

    "The courtroom is a historical landmark so whoever obtains that building can't touch that courtroom and we are the only ones in the court business," Todd said. "We have two tenants there, the FBI and the post office. We want to keep those tenants. We're not going to kick them out. We hope they will stay."

    Supervisors asked to purchase the building last year, but haven't been given the go-ahead from the General Services Administration, the federal agency that handles federal properties and buildings. The courtroom could be used while renovations are under way at the Lauderdale County Courthouse, which supervisors have said needs numerous repairs. Other office space in the building could be used by county offices as well.

    A $14 million bond issue that is being challenged by opponents in court is being held up in the state's supreme court system. Part of that bond issue was earmarked for improvements to the old courthouse.

Todd, along with supervisors Wayman Newell, District 2; Joe Norwood, District 4; and Kyle Rutledge, District 5 will travel to D.C., along with Joe McCraney, county administrator; and Rick Barry, board attorney.

    Todd said they again are going to ask for about $3 million in funding for a road to be built at the Hawkins Crossing intersection to relieve traffic congestion.

    The length would be approximately eight-tenths of a mile and would route traffic to Jimmie Rodgers Parkway.

    Traffic out of Central Industrial Park currently comes back down to Hawkins Crossing and into what Newell previously called the busiest intersection in Meridian — at highways 20 & 59, and Highway 19.

    "There are 27,000 cars that go through there per day, just in the Hawkins Crossing intersection," Todd said.

    They will also talk military issues with congressional delegation, Todd said.

    "We're going to give them a big thank you for the KC 135s," Todd said. "We are wanting to get a simulator that was taken when the KC 135s were taken."

    Todd was referring to the return of tanker jets last year to Mississippi Air National Guard at Key Field in Meridian. Military officials have said a simulator is essential for continued training.

    Supervisors will leave Monday afternoon, after the 9 a.m. board meeting and will return on Wednesday.