Local lawmakers say they are hopeful one of three bills funding the construction of a new Mississippi Highway Patrol substation in Starkville will be approved this session.
The three bills — House Bill 376, HB 417 and Senate Bill 2060 — are still working their way through the state House and Senate after surviving Tuesday’s deadline for committees to report general bills and constitutional amendments originating from their own chambers.
All three bills make a new push for $6 million in one-time proceeds that would build and furnish the new facility in Cornerstone Park. Debt relief would be spread across 25 years, if the legislation is approved.
Similar funding attempts have stalled in Jackson since the Oktibbeha County Economic Development Authority donated a parcel to the highway patrol in 2013.
“Finally, it’s our turn for a new substation. It has been a long time coming and is sorely needed,” said District 37 Rep. Gary Chism, R-Columbus.
District 43 Rep. Rob Roberson, R-Starkville, said the House should take up the measures next week.
“They’re alive and well, and I’m hearing good things,” he said. “From what I’ve gathered, everyone seems to be on go for it.”
MHP Troop G’s current headquarters, located at the intersection of Highway 182 and East Lee Boulevard, was last updated in the 1980s and is the last troop headquarters waiting for an upgrade.
In addition to serving as the area’s MHP base of operations, Troop G’s headquarters also provides residents with driver’s license renewals and permits for firearms, among other services. Troop spokesman Sgt. Criss Turnipseed previously said a new facility could also offer commercial driver’s licenses for the area.
“I’ve been told the substation is a priority,” he said earlier this month.
Although designs are not yet prepared, Turnipseed said construction efforts should mirror recent MHP building projects across the state.
HB 376 was filed by state District 39 Rep. Jeff Smith, R-Columbus, and referred to the House Ways and Means Committee, which he chairs. HB 417, a bill mirroring HB 376’s language, was authored by District 38 Rep. Tyrone Ellis, D-Starkville, and also referred to Smith’s committee.
Filed by District 41 Sen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, SB 2060 was submitted to that chamber’s finance committee. Like Smith, Fillingane chairs the Senate group.
Both Chism, Ellis and Roberson said they expect the House to pass one of the proposed measures and are optimistic Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who wields significant control over Senate spending measures, will back the bill.
Chism said the spending measure “certainly has to have the nod of the” lieutenant governor.
“If we can have a good meeting with (Reeves), we can make it. He killed (last year’s funding attempt) because Republicans didn’t want a lot of bond bills coming out,” Ellis said two weeks ago. “It’s really needed. Every other MHP station has been updated in the past years. Ours hasn’t and is the most overcrowded. I’ve seen lines of people standing outside waiting to get licenses because the building can’t support the crowd.”
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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