Meadville's agenda still focused on road repairs

by Sean Dunlap

Road improvements in Meadville continue to be a focus of the town’s leadership with Mayor Lane B. Reed noting plans are still moving forward to upgrade a section of thoroughfare that he has called “rougher than a washboard” in public meetings.

“This would be a joint project between Franklin County and the town using a combination of local funds to resurface two portions of heavily-traveled roads near our corporate limits,” Reed said during the last Meadville Board of Aldermen meeting held on Tuesday, July 12.

“We’re working closely with District 2 Supervisor Henry “Eddie” Stebbins to bring this to fruition hopefully by this fall.”

The scope of work would include paving a portion of Union Church Road directly in front of Franklin County Memorial Hospital from the stop sign to the first curve near the Meadville water tank along with a portion of Main Street near the local health care facility.

Exactly how much of Main Street in proximity to the hospital could be repaved is uncertain as Reed said officials are working within the range of financial resources they have available.
The mayor went on to note the town and county — through their respective attorneys — are looking at the legalities of doing this work as one project or possibly breaking it into two projects.

The proposed resurfacing — however it is handled — would be paid for through a combination of county road funds and money distributed to the town for road improvements from a portion of annual local ad valorem tax collections.

Reed said the ultimate goal for the future would be to resurface Main Street from the town’s corporate limits — which is where state maintenance of the road presently ends — eastward past the “Flying Y” interchange with Mississippi Highway 556 to Edison Street.

Reed also noted work is required to address the condition of Main Street between Walnut Street and McNair Road.

He indicated the town is perpetually turning over every rock possible to try to find outside dollars that can help supplement town resources to tackle upgrades of Main Street.

One major resurfacing project involving Main and Oak streets in downtown Meadville — driven by a competitive state grant — has recently been closed out with the work inspected by engineers and final payments approved by town leaders.

That effort was funded through the Small Municipalities and Limited Populations Counties Grant provided to the town via the Mississippi Development Authority to promote economic growth through the improvement of public infrastructure and facilities.

The SMLPC grant, which is typically capped at $150,000 per jurisdiction, required the town to provide matching dollars to receive the award, which it did.

Both Main and Oak streets were milled to remove old asphalt before a new surface and striping were applied.

In a separate matter regarding recent efforts to gain support through the state’s Emergency Road and Bridge Repair fund, Reed noted the town did not receive any of the dollars it had requested through the program for Main Street.

“I was dismayed and frankly not happy that we did not make the list of communities receiving portions of these funds,” the mayor added.

“Among those getting ERBR funds were Byram, Macon, Magnolia, Meridian, Jackson and Brookhaven.”

The ERBR initiative was initially established by the Mississippi Legislature during a 2018 special session to revitalize public roads and bridges across the state.

MDOT administers the ongoing ERBR program for repair efforts with criteria for the obtaining the funds including 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 was 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 previously said in June.

The mayor indicated the town would likely continue to seek future rounds of ERBR money as it becomes available to help cover the costs of future Main Street improvements.