County seeks funds for West Church Hill Road work

Clay County supervisors are seeking state and federal funding to help improve West Church Hill Road which already is home to a number of jobs, plus a church and residences, with more on the way. (Photo by Steve Rogers/DTL)
Staff Writer

Clay County may ask the Appalachian Regional Commission for money to help improve a road that is home to a growing number of jobs.

Thursday, county supervisors authorized Phyllis Benson with the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District to begin the process of seeking ARC funds to repave West Church Hill Road.

PECO Foods announced last week it plans to invest $40 million in the old Americold Logistics building, turning it into a poultry processing plant which could employ as many as 300 people within four years.

But that announcement is just the latest in a string of reasons to improve the road.

"We've got a lot of industries, a lot of jobs out there. The road really is getting to be in bad shape," Supervisor R.B. Davis told his fellow supervisors.

"We could get started now on the process, but it still is going to take a while to get anything done," added Supervisor Luke Lummus.

In addition to the 190,000-square-foot Americold building, which PECO plans to expand by 100,000 square feet within about 18 months, West Church also is home to Prestage Farms, which employs 300 people, Steel City Recycling, Falcon Contracting, a dialysis clinic, the 4-H therapeutic riding and outside sports center, and other businesses.

Benson told the board while ARC can hand out millions in grants, it traditionally likes to keep awards within "$250,000 to $300,000" so the federal agency to stretch its limited dollars further.

The first step will be meeting the federal guidelines for hiring professionals who then would put together cost estimates.

Any funding from ARC likely would be just a starting point. The road runs about two miles and would have to be upgraded to handle the growing amount of heavy truck traffic.

Jackie Edwards, the executive director of Community Counseling who serves as the county's representative on the Golden Triangle Development Link board, said PECO is just the latest in what will be more to come.

"There's more coming than PECO by itself. There's more coming than just the one. You've got to realize we are in the big-time now," Edwards told supervisors, noting prospective industries often look to see how well local governments respond to industry needs and work proactively to help.

In other business, supervisors:

-- Authorized Sheriff Eddie Scott to use inmate work crews to help Community Counseling to clean up overgrown areas on the Cart House property adjacent to Marshall Park in West Point. Edwards said the bushes, trees and old fences contributed to recent breakins and vandalism at the county-owned building. Community Counseling hopes to convert the buildings, which currently is used for ay mental health counseling and treatment services, into a 12-bed emergency stabilization mental health center.

-- Authorized county Fire Coordinator B. J. McClenton to apply for the next round of Rural Fire Truck Acquisition grants as another step toward trying to expand fire coverage in the eastern part of the county, particularly the areas around Town Creek and Barton Ferry campgrounds. The eastern part of the county already has an 8 fire rating but adding a truck at the District 1 barn cover to the east side of Barton Ferry Road could be a step toward getting the rating to a 7, which could reduce insurance premiums another 15 percent. Eventually, the county would need another truck for the southeastern areas. Trucks cost about $275,000 each.

The state grant program provides $70,000 toward the purchase and the next round of grants will raise that to $90,000, McClenton told supervisors. The last two fire trucks the county purchased were placed in Una and Pheba and were bought with 2 percent interest CAP loans through the Mississippi Development Authority.

One possibility if the county wants to purchase one or more trucks would be a lease-purchase arrangement for up to 10 years with Pierce, the truck manufacturer that supplies many of the nation's fire vehicles.