Warren County Supervisor Shawn Jackson speaks on Infrastructure Bill

Published 4:00 am Wednesday, November 10, 2021

On Monday, District 3 Supervisor Shawn Jackson stepped out of the Board of Supervisors’ work session early.

She did so in order to virtually attend a White House press briefing about the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that passed this past Friday. For Jackson, attending the briefing was a matter of understanding how Warren County will potentially benefit from the bill.

“For Warren County, it’s going to be huge if we do things right,” Jackson said. “One of the biggest encouragements is that leaders and elected officials identify and advocate for transformative projects.”

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According to The Associated Press, the bill would provide $110 billion to repair the nation’s aging highways, bridges and roads. According to the White House, 173,000 total miles, or nearly 280,000 kilometers of America’s highways and major roads and 45,000 bridges, are in poor condition. And the almost $40 billion for bridges is the single largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the national highway system, according to the Biden administration.

Jackson said she was optimistic that a portion of these funds would be used to improve roadways in and around Warren County. As the county opened discussions about American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding last month, she said it was important to note ARPA cannot be used for infrastructure projects — instead, the newly passed bill will be the ticket.

“We have lots of roads and bridges that are in disrepair in our community. We have bayous that need to be fortified,” she said. “But we also have other major projects that we need to tackle in Warren County. There are water upgrades. There’s riverfront development, port development; things we know we need to work on, but have to find a way to fund it.”

As part of the infrastructure bill, the legislation would spend $55 billion on water and wastewater infrastructure. It has $15 billion to replace lead pipes and $10 billion to address water contamination from polyfluoroalkyl substances — chemicals that were used in the production of Teflon and have also been used in firefighting foam, water-repellent clothing and many other items.

The legislation’s $65 billion for broadband access would aim to improve internet services for rural areas, low-income families and tribal communities. Most of the money would be made available through grants to states.

Now that the infrastructure bill has passed, the question remains: How will the funds make it to the local level?

“At least 100 programs will be launched with the Infrastructure bill’s passing,” Jackson said. “Water, roads and bridges, rails are all included, among other projects. Some of the money will come to the local level via applications that we make and then of course there will be different groups that request some changes to be made.

“Some groups yesterday were advocating that direct allocations be made to local city and county governments, which is especially exciting for places like Warren County.”

Much like ARPA, Jackson said she hopes the county will provide opportunities for residents to communicate with their elected officials to voice concerns and make requests for projects. So far, 70 applications for ARPA funds have been submitted to the Warren County Board of Supervisors. The board is reviewing those applications and determining criteria by which it can grant portions of the more than $8 million received from ARPA.

“The federal government has made it clear that it expects us to engage the community and determine where needs are. And the county has done that,” Jackson said. “I am so glad that we’ve literally taken the first wave of a fine-tooth comb. Even if we can’t address those needs with ARPA, we know about them and can hopefully address them with other funds.”

Above all, Jackson said, receiving these funds is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for communities across the country — one that will result in “total facelifts” for some areas, but also one that will require collaboration and responsible decision-making at the local level.

“As more money opens up, we win when we use that pocket money responsibly,” she said.

While the total amount of funds the county will receive from the infrastructure bill remains to be seen, Jackson did provide some perspective for her expectations.

“The city received a little over $4 million and the county got a little over $8 million from ARPA. The infrastructure bill is $1.2 Trillion… imagine the implications to Warren County and Vicksburg from that amount,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.