Mayor defends paving delays
BAD ROAD A driver of a Dodge van moves toward the center of 12th Street, between 23rd and 24th avenues, Tuesday to avoid cracks in the road. This street is one of many in Meridian in need of resurfacing. Photo by Kyle Carter/The Meridian Star
By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
March 17, 2004
Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith said Tuesday that the city has not begun paving streets with $6 million it borrowed last year because of "economic development issues that are not public."
Smith, wagging his finger in the air, also angrily criticized Ward 5 Councilman Bobby Smith at the Tuesday city council meeting. The mayor complained that the councilman publicly questioned road delays even though he knew the reason.
The mayor said he told all councilmen in a recent closed meeting that a second asphalt company could bid on the projects and, therefore, reduce the overall cost.
Meridian officials borrowed $6 million in August to pave city streets. The city must pay 3.76 percent interest on the loan; at the same time, the money is in a bank account where it is earning about 1 percent interest.
Meridian city councilmen voted last month to approve a list of streets the city will repair with the loan but none have been placed out for bid and no start date is set for the work.
City officials have said they are waiting for the right time to purchase asphalt for their paving projects. Mayor Smith has said that it is unwise to purchase asphalt in the winter.
At the same time, however, Meridian has bought asphalt for Lauderdale County workers to use in repairing some city streets. And the Mississippi Department of Transportation is in the middle of a project to resurface nine miles of Highway 39.
Mayor Smith said bid documents for the city's projects could be completed this week. He said the city will advertise for the work soon after that; he did not give a specific date when construction would begin.
The mayor said he believes the projects will attract at least two bidders. "That will be a good thing," he said.
Although APAC has been the only local asphalt company to bid on recent projects, Dunn Road Builders LLC of Laurel has a plant in Quitman and has won bids on several projects, including Highway 39.
Dunn recently purchased property on Sellers Drive and advertised last week that it has sought approval from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to operate a hot mix asphalt plant at the site.
Regardless, Grogan said his company would definitely look into bidding on the city's street paving projects. But, he said, he's not sure how competitive his company's bid will be with the nearest plant in Quitman.
Even if his company did decide to build a plant in Meridian, Grogan said, it could take "at least six months to do so" and likely would not be ready in time for the city's street paving projects.
For Councilman Smith, the bottom line is the long delay for the road repairs.
Councilman Smith said he was surprised by the mayor's outburst during the city council meeting. Smith said he was only trying to find out when the city would open the road project for bids.