State next stop in search for West Church Hill money

Heavy truck traffic has taken its toll on West Church Hill Road and city and county leaders want the state to help pay for improvements.
Staff Writer

Clay County and West Point will go to the Legislature as the next step in efforts to find $1 million to improve West Church Hill Road later this year or next year after the new Peco Foods partial-fry operation is completed.

The city and county have received a $150,000 state Small Municipalities grant from the Mississippi Development Authority and are in line for a $240,000 Appalachian Regional Commission grant toward the $1 million project.

To cover the remainder plus improvements beyond just paving the road, state Sen. Angela Turner Ford, who also is the attorney for the county, has filed legislation asking for $900,000 if the state issues bonds this year or has additional BP oil spill cleanup funds to distribute, which is expected.

“The $1 million, that’s still the number we’re working with,” Bob Calvert, who serves as the county engineer, told Clay County supervisors Monday.

“We’ve requested almost the whole thing and we will see what happens,” Ford told board members.

“Local and private legislation like this usually doesn’t come until the end, that’s when the leadership starts putting all those things together and determining whether there is enough support for a bond bill and what the state can afford. It’s an election year so who knows,” she continued.

Church Hill has been a priority for the city and county for a year, especially after Tuscaloosa, Ala.-based Peco, the nation’s eighth-largest poultry producer, announced plans to renovate the old Americold Logistics freezer unit into a freezer and distribution center and build an additional 100,000-square-foot partial fry plant.

The new construction may now reach 170,000 square feet.

The two operations will employ 300 or more people once fully operational in the next two or three years.

Those 300 workers will join 300 already employed at Prestage Farms and more than 200 others at other businesses and industries on the road, ranging from Steel City Recycling and Falcon Paving to Fresenius Kidney Care and Mossy Oak.

Truck traffic already has worn out the road and that will only get worse, city and county leaders say, making it a top target for improvements.

The city applied for funds in the recently released $250 million state “emergency” bridge and road fund but didn’t receive money. Both local governments had applied last year for the MDA and ARC monies as part of a broad outreach in search of funds to minimize the direct impact on local property taxpayers.

In other business, supervisors authorized Calvert to advertise for bids for repairs on bridges on the west end of Yokohama Boulevard. Settling created large bumps where the bridge meets the pavements, creating safety hazards. State Aid money is paying for the work.