Going to bat for local projects|Officials head to D.C., hope for shot at federal funds

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 18, 2009

This year’s annual trek to Washington D.C. by local elected and business officials figures to come smack in the middle of negotiations between the U.S. House and Senate on President-elect Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan, now estimated to be at least $825 billion.

Much of the plan proposed Thursday by House Democrats is new spending on infrastructure projects — about $550 billion — usually at the heart of Vicksburg and Warren County’s past requests.

Warren County Port Commission executive director Wayne Mansfield said the list will emphasize projects closest to contract time, in accordance with suggestions made by government liaison groups.

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“We’ve done our homework, as we have in the past,” Mansfield said this week, adding the trip remains tentatively set for early February. “I think we will really emphasize projects that are construction ready.”

Officials have said a consistent show of unity between public and private officials has paid dividends in the form of expedited funding. One item on last year’s list of projects, the $7.3 million replacement of the E.W. Haining Road bridge entering the Port of Vicksburg, will be bid for construction work Feb. 12. The bridge and intersection work’s financing will come from a $10 million Katrina-related disaster recovery grant.

Mansfield has acted as moderator for the cross-section of Vicksburg’s mayor and aldermen, Warren County supervisors, Vicksburg Warren County Chamber of Commerce executives and nonprofit directors. Meetings ensue with Mississippi’s congressional delegation and both senators. Also, meetings with northeast Louisiana’s congressman and at least one senator are held for a show of regional cooperation.

Vicksburg and Warren County were ahead of the usual curve for this year’s trip, due mostly to the need to form a list of projects for submittal to federal officials in anticipation of a deluge of federal money.

A sample of projects at varying pre-bid stages were on a revised list put together this week by county engineers. Road projects included a new plan for Henry Lake Road, now eyed for a connection to Flowers Hill Road pegged at $5 million. Reconstruction of Bovina Cut-Off Road adds $2 million to the list.

Topping them all on the county’s $152.85 million list is a $25 million item for building a new jail. A study to plan the size, scope and location of a new facility is underway by a Colorado-based professional jail consultant.

Inside the city, projects include softening units and a backup generator for the Vicksburg Water Treatment Plant, an additional 16-inch water line near the plant and additional street resurfacing, all of which would cost at least $5 million.


Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at dbarrett@vicksburgpost.com.

At a glance

Other projects seen as top priorities for local economic development and job creation:

* About $10 million in further upgrades at the Port of Vicksburg, chiefly to the 15-ton overhead crane and housing terminal. The work has been slated for grant funding for several years, but was put on hold while the T-dock support platform was undergoing a $3.4 million replacement of its own.

* $5.5 million to complete a bridge to connect South Frontage Road between Porters Chapel Road and the Outlets at Vicksburg. Environmental studies were presented in 2007, but the project remains short of construction funding.

* At least $25 million in additional allocations for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete the Lower Mississippi Museum and Interpretive Site. With the move of the retired MV Mississippi IV complete, the long-sought project is in need of the additional money in the current federal budget to be opened by 2011. Funding is largely dependent on reauthorization of the Energy and Water Development Act and the Water Resources Development Act, primary funding sources in recent decades for flood control, navigation and environmental projects undertaken by the Corps.

* An expansion of the Rural Renewal Community Program to include Ceres Research and Industrial Interplex and the Port of Vicksburg. Currently, the zone covers much of northern Vicksburg and Warren County residential areas, but doesn’t extend to the industrial centers.