No up-front money needed for North State rehab project

Jackson won’t need $30 million up front for the North State Street and West County Line Road projects after all.

Jackson’s one-percent program managers made the announcement last week.

The news comes weeks after city officials said Jackson would need to have the total amount for the projects in the bank, or risk losing millions in grant money.

The projects include reconstructing portions of North State and West County Line in North Jackson.

The work is being funded, in large part, with $24.5 million in federal grants.

In 2015, Jackson received a $16.5 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to help cover the work. The grant was awarded through the agency’s “Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery,” or TIGER, program.

The amount will cover more than half of the projects’ estimated costs.

In January, officials from the city’s public works department told the one-percent oversight commission Jackson would have to set aside $30 million for the work before FHWA would allow the projects to move forward.

Jackson has to begin construction by June, according to provisions of the award.

At the time, the projects were expected to cost around $32 million.

Engineers now say the work will cost around $38.5 million, because many underground utilities will have to be replaced.

The project is being designed by Neel-Schaffer Engineers. Plans for County Line were drawn up several years ago, also by Neel-Schaffer. 

Previously, city officials were expecting to rehab the old water and sewer mains under the streets.

 

Tommy Avant, vice president of IMS Engineers, the one-percent program manager, told the commission that his firm had met with FHWA, which gave Jackson several options for paying for the work.

In all, Jackson will be responsible for paying about $14 million in construction costs.

“Every month, you can pay the invoices, submit the receipts to the LPA and they’ll reimburse you,” he said.

The LPA, or local public agency, in this case, is the Mississippi Department of Transportation, which will reimburse Jackson for project costs within 45 days of receiving invoices, Avant said.

“The FHWA said you can set aside this year’s match and pay monthly, and you’ll get reimbursed so that money will come back into the budget,” he said.

The projects include rebuilding North State from Hartfield Street to Sheppard Street, and West County Line from Rand Street to Guice Lane. The West County Line project also includes relocating the railroad and realigning the street’s intersection. Underground infrastructure, including water and sewer mains, will be replaced.

 

Mayor Tony Yarber had hoped to use one-percent funds to help pay for the construction.

However, if the commission funds the projects this year, it will be unable to fund any additional work.

The tax is expected to generate around $14.5 million this calendar year, according to Engineering Manager Charles Williams.

To date, the assessment has generated around $40 million, of which $30.1 million has been obligated, according to IMS numbers. 

Yarber hopes to use a portion of those funds as leverage for a $90 million line of credit, which the city could draw down as needed to cover one-percent projects.

Some of that $90 million would be used to cover North State and West County Line.

Last week, the city council approved a notice of intent to borrow the money, the first step to allow the city to obtain the funding. However, council members told the administration they would not move forward until they knew how the money would be spent.

“We are held accountable to our constituents. When we get a call (from someone who says), ‘We saw today you approved $90 million for infrastructure. What are you going to use it for?’ An appropriate response for us is not we’ll get it to you tomorrow. It’s important for us to know what projects would be done ... that’s a baseline of what should be submitted to the council before we make a decision,” said Council President Tyrone Hendrix.

The funds would come from the Mississippi Development Bank.

The administration said it would provide the council with a list of projects.

The council has to decide on moving forward by April 4. 

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