Starkville is using its $6.3 million in American Rescue Plan Act Funds to improve sewer, water and stormwater infrastructure on Highway 182, Main Street and Lampkin Street.
In September, the city applied for matching funds from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality’s Mississippi Municipality and County Water Infrastructure (MCWI) grant. Additionally, Highway 182 qualified for a $12.5 million Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant through the Mississippi Department of Transportation in 2019.
MDOT estimated the construction cost of the Highway 182 project at $19 million in September, according to associate city engineer Chris Williams. The total cost is estimated to be $26 million, including design plans. The BUILD grant will cover sewer, water and stormwater replacements, sidewalk improvements and broadband expansion. Starkville spent $2.5 million on the project to receive matching funds from the grant. ARPA and MCWI funds will cover the additional costs of the sewer and stormwater expansions.
Williams explained the Highway 182 project.
"The intersection of Jackson (Street) and (Highway) 182, they have flooding issues and heavy rain," Williams said. "So, it’s re-doing drainage all through the whole project and also then aging infrastructure on the water and the sewer that runs in that area."
The project is set to begin construction in spring 2023 and could be completed by spring 2025, Williams said. It will stretch 1.4 miles from North Long Street to Old West Point Road.
The city will also add and update sidewalks and wheelchair accessibility along the highway in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Mayor Lynn Spruill said the new water, sewer and stormwater lines will be installed from City Hall on Main Street though Montgomery Street and East Lampkin Street to Washington Street. These changes will be made before the sidewalk and road refurbishments begin on Main Street, associate engineer Williams said. The street renovations will run from City Hall to Montgomery Street and could take up to two years to complete after the city finalizes design and funding plans.
The city will remove turning lanes, expand sidewalks and repave the roads downtown. Ward 5 Alderman Hamp Beatty disagreed with the decision.
"I’m not a supporter of the downtown project … I don’t think it’s a good idea to squeeze our streets and take out our turn lanes and, you know, make it hard for people to get out of parking spaces," Beatty said.
Highway 182 and Main Street are not equally splitting ARPA funds for water and sewer infrastructure.
"The bulk of the ARPA money would go toward the BUILD (182) grant," Ward 2 Alderwoman Sandra Sistrunk said. "It’s a much bigger project — it’s a $26 million project. The Main Street project is a $10 million project."
Starkville will not use ARPA funds to cover sidewalk and street renovations on Main Street and Highway 182. Mississippi House Bill 1353 designated $1.25 million for Main Street’s road refurbishment. Spruill said numerous sources also contributed to the project, including the Mississippi Main Street Association, state, federal and local agencies.
Beatty said Starkville increased property taxes to help pay for its part of the highway project, and the BUILD grant supplied funds for sidewalk accessibility.
After all the grants are applied, Starkville will have to pay additional costs for Highway 182 and Main Street by issuing debt. Sistrunk said both projects will be phased out, depending on how much money the city has at each point.
Parks not included in final ARPA plans
Initially, the Board of Aldermen and Mayor Spruill planned to allocate funds for the police and fire departments and to make improvements to parks in the city. However, the MCWI grant specified that water and sewer infrastructure projects would receive matching funds. The city decided to backtrack and focus on agendas MDEQ would approve.
"We could use our ARPA money for parks and other projects as we had originally thought about doing," Sistrunk said, "or we could potentially double our money and use them for these other projects, the BUILD grant and the downtown projects."
Parks will receive up to $15 million from 1% of the 3% food, drink and tourism tax Starkville issues. The Starkville Sportsplex will receive funding through 2027. Cornerstone Sports Park’s maintenance and construction are funded for 30 years through the additional 1% sales tax, Beatty said. Mississippi State University and Oktibbeha County also receive part of the tax revenue.
Beatty said Starkville has several water and sewer infrastructure issues. He disagreed with the board’s original plans to use ARPA money for parks, saying the city needed to take full advantage of these one-time monies.
Sistrunk said projects receiving ARPA funds should be transformational.
"These are one-time monies," Sistrunk said, "and I know Lt. Gov. (Delbert) Hosemann … talks about using these monies for transformational-type projects, and I think both of these fit that category, and they’ll also address infrastructure needs that were going to have to be dealt with at some point in the future anyway."
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