Meadville's leadership seeks funds for projects

by Sean Dunlap

When it comes to a laundry list of public infrastructure project needs, the Town of Meadville continues to turn over every rock and stone looking for federal and state assistance for things like installing new digital water meters and repaving aging roads.

Mayor Lane B. Reed said one of the major sources of assistance that could soon start trickling down is the federal American Recovery Plan Act — or ARPA — funds that were approved in March, 2021 to provide $350 billion in support for state and local governmental entities.

“The ARPA funds would help with our goal of installing digital water meters on our water system,” Reed told town aldermen during their most recent business meeting on Tuesday, June 14.

“Our goal is to be among the first to turn in our request for a share of these funds when they will start being accepted on (Friday) July 1.”

The Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) is overseeing the distribution of ARPA program funds to non-entitlement units of local government that serve populations of less than 50,000 people and include cities, villages towns and other governmental entities.

Reed characterized the need for digital meters as one of great importance as he noted the town is potentially losing a lot of potable water and revenue because old analog meters that have been in place for decades are not reading properly resulting in a lot of the resource literally being given away.

“When the old meters are not turning, customers are staying on the minimum (charge), and, as a result, people with working meters are paying more money for the water they are using,” Reed continued.

“From our perspective, everyone needs to be toting the same load based on what water they are using and what they are paying for thus making it a huge priority for our town.”

ARPA funds could potentially pay for two-thirds of the digital water meter installation effort with the town responsible for the remaining one-third of the total cost, the amount of which was not discussed at the meeting.

Reed said he would also like to see some ARPA funds prioritized for other water and sewer system improvements that would modernize services for customers and further streamline those offerings in terms of newer equipment.

“We’re going to fight as hard as we can to get a share of those funds, which will be offered as competitive grants for communities across the state,” Reed said. “(The state) is going to spread those funds around and we have some folks writing letters that are in our corner in pushing for this money.”

Additionally, the town is seeking to add to its recent improvements of Main Street eastward from downtown because Reed described the primary artery into the community as being “rough as a cob.”

Meadville received close to $150,000 in funding through the Small Municipalities and Limited Population Counties grant program to recently resurface Main Street between Walnut and Edison streets along with a portion of Oak Street between First Street and Meadville Town Hall.

Now, Reed said the town is working closely with Franklin County District 2 Supervisor Henry “Eddie” Stebbins to resurface a portion of Union Church Road in front of the hospital between Main Street and the first curve later this year.

The Union Church Road upgrade would be paid for through a combination of existing county funds and money distributed to the town for road improvements from a portion of ad valorem tax collections.

Reed said to augment additional future road repairs – especially along Main Street between the hospital and downtown Meadville – the municipality is in the process of applying for Emergency Road and Bridge Repair funds through the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

The Mississippi Legislature established the Emergency Road and Bridge Repair Fund in 2018 to revitalize public roads and bridges across the Magnolia State.

Criteria for the ERBR funds include: Safety, emergency vehicle access, condition of bridges, economic impacts, project readiness, traffic volume, truck volume, regional significance, innovative financing and design and access to schools.

“Our thought in seeking this money is that if there were several hundred thousand dollars available that would not cover the cost of repairing or replacing a bridge, maybe they could look favorably upon us to use some or all of that money to upgrade portions of Main Street,” Reed continued.

“Depending on how much money we could get, if approved, would determine how far we could make improvements. I would gladly take $100,000 or as much as they could provide through the program.”

Reed said the town was working with its engineering firm of record, Dungan Engineering, to file the appropriate paperwork and applications in seeking any ERBR dollars the state might be willing to provide to the municipality.

“The reality is that they cannot tell us yes if we don’t have an application in front of them,” the mayor said in regards to seeking money through MDOT. “We’re in the process of making sure we have everything ready to submit for the state’s consideration.”