OKTIBBEHA COUNTY — Supervisors on Monday essentially approved a money swap that took another swipe at its commitment to the East Oktibbeha Wastewater District, whittling its original $6 million allocation nearly in half.
The move has further jeopardized state matching funds for a project to install more sewer lines in the eastern part of the county.
In September, the board dedicated $6 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to the sewer project, and wastewater district manager Dwight Prisock applied with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality for a dollar-for-dollar match. If approved, the district could run sewer line down Old Highway 25, as well as most of Williams, Bethel, Poor House and Blackjack roads.
A month later, after Prisock had submitted the application, supervisors reduced its commitment to $5 million, diverting $1 million to helping upgrade 10.5 miles of Oktoc Road in District 5. On Monday, they diverted another $1.5 million to Oktoc Road, replacing the difference State Aid road funds had been designated to cover.
With $2.5 million in ARPA now going to Oktoc Road, it frees up roughly $700,000 in State Aid road funds to be used elsewhere in the county.
Prisock said with the supervisors now cutting their initial commitment of $6 million nearly in half, he doesn’t know if the state will approve the dollar-for-dollar match grant.
“The state hasn’t approved anything,” Prisock said. “At this point, I don’t know if we’ll even get any match. We were trying to get it resolved when they cut it from $6 to $5 (million), but that’s not finalized. We don’t have a letter confirming the money so if (the supervisors) reduce it again, whenever we get the board order, they may just completely drop us out.”
MDEQ is overseeing state matching funds for ARPA water projects on the city and county levels. Jan Schaefer, director of communications, said the supervisors will need to talk through the new amount with MDEQ representatives.
“This project, as submitted, had a total budget of $12M, and listed the local match as $6M,” Schaefer told The Dispatch in an email. “Any changes to that initial submission will have to be worked out in conversations with the applicant to determine whether the project can move forward.”
Prisock said he’s not sure where the wastewater project will stand if the dollar-for-dollar grant from MDEQ falls through.
Falcon Contracting submitted the low bid of about $3.4 million for the Oktoc Road upgrades, which was opened in mid-November. After engineering fees and other soft costs, the project comes in at roughly $4 million.
Supervisors accepted that bid on Monday.
The legislature has dedicated $1 million toward the project. Supervisors have committed $2.5 million in ARPA the supes had dedicated, $440,000 in State Aid, with other local road funds poised to pay the balance.
In prior discussions, the board considered dedicating $1 million in ARPA and $1.1 million in State Aid funds — which are allotted to counties on a four-year cycle to improve designated roads — to the project, leaving a little more than a $900,000 balance.
By clawing back $700,000 of the State Aid and replacing it with more ARPA, the county can fix Oktoc Road and have funds for other projects.
Still, District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams voted against using more ARPA for the road in his district since it would take away from the wastewater project.
“I want to see wastewater management have the money it needs to complete the project,” Williams said. “We still have the funds, but we now have less for it.”
District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery and District 3’s Marvell Howard, whose districts are mostly on the west side of the county and not covered by the wastewater district, pushed Monday to ensure money would be available for other State Aid roads in the county that needed work.
District 2’s Orlando Trainer agreed to claw back some State Aid funds from Oktoc but moved to also make up the cost difference with ARPA funds.
“State Aid is allotted county-wide,” Montgomery told The Dispatch. “Doing that project the way that it stood, it would’ve exhausted all of the State Aid dollars for any other projects throughout the county. To make it where you wouldn’t just beach other projects throughout the county, I thought it was better to get it from ARPA money so we could also do other projects throughout the county.”
The measure passed 3-1. District 4’s Bricklee Miller, who is board president, was absent from the meeting.
The county received $9.6 million in ARPA for COVID-19 relief. In addition to money designated to the wastewater district and Oktoc Road, the supes designated $2.6 million to repair the Oktibbeha County Lake Dam and $1 million to finish paving Sturgis-Maben Road.
Double Headed Eagle hours
On Monday, supervisors were presented a new ordinance that would dictate a 1 a.m. closing time for all bars and nightclubs regardless of whether they have resort status.
In the meantime, the Double Headed Eagle — located in the old Cowbells location on St. Andrews Lane — can remain open until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays until the new ordinance passes.
The board will host a public hearing on the ordinance at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 17 in the chancery courthouse.
The issue arose after sheriff’s deputies forced the Double Headed Eagle to close at 1 a.m. the first weekend it was open. Operators believed the establishment’s resort status allowed it to be open until 3 a.m. on weekends and threatened to take legal action against the county.
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