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Critical interchange for Cooper, Bonita Lakes in the works

By Staff
NEW LAW ENABLES FAST ACTION Mayor John Robert Smith listens as Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall explains a proposed interchange on Highway 45 to serve the Cooper Development and Bonita Lakes property. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
May 23, 2002
The city is one step closer to a multi-million dollar interchange on Highway 45 that will eventually connect the proposed Cooper community with the Bonita Lakes property.
Mayor John Robert Smith and Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall announced Wednesday that they are working on an agreement to begin building the new interchange within a year.
The details
The city would pay the estimated $6-$8 million cost up front by tapping a $10 million line of credit set up earlier this year with the Mississippi Development Authority.
In the end, the city would be responsible for 20 percent of the total cost, plus interest, and MDOT would use federal funds to repay the other 80 percent to the city over a five- or six-year period.
When polled, four of the five city council members said they plan to approve using the $10 million line of credit to build the interchange. Ward 4 Councilman Jesse Palmer Sr. could not be reached for comment.
The city will design and manage the interchange and MDOT will oversee the project.
Spurring development
Arkansas-based Cooper Land Development Inc. announced in December its plans to develop a $35 million gated retirement community on 1,314 acres of city-owned property near Long Creek Reservoir.
The group plans to build more than 3,000 homes and two championship golf courses.
Cooper officials said an interchange at Highway 45 is critical to the project. And, Mayor John Robert Smith said, the city needs to speed up the process of building the interchange.
New law
Hall said the city will use new legislation passed in 2001 that allows communities to put up the total cost of a project up front, with MDOT committed to repay 80 percent.