GEORGE COUNTY, Miss. (WKRG) – George County will likely walk away as one of the largest winners from the state legislative session, pending the governor’s signature.

In a legislative session largely dominated by divides over issues like school funding, health care reform, the ballot initiative and control over the city of Jackson, lawmakers managed to agree on a $7.6 billion budget- the largest in history with record state revenues- early on Sunday, April 2.

George County got $5.7 million for specific road and community center projects in direct allocations. Community Development Director Ken Flanagan says it’s one of the largest shares of state funds the county has received since Hurricane Katrina.

$3.2 million of the share came from the Gulf Coast Restoration Fund, money set aside from the BP oil spill for economic development in the six coastal counties. The rest came from community project requests presented by the county’s delegation in the legislature to include as line items in the state budget.

The county anticipates collecting $19.3 million in ad valorem taxes this fiscal year, while 62% of its total budget comes from grants like the legislature allocations.

While the allocations enable projects the county could not fund on its own, the regulations on spending state funds and timeliness of deposits to the county’s bank account can slow down the process. The Board of Supervisors approved the final invoice for work on Scott Road at the beginning of the year. The first allocation for the project came in the 2019 legislative session.

Funding for George County projects from the 2023 legislative session include:

Old Hwy 63 North improvements

  • $1,599,372 from GCRF, county to provide 20% match at $399,843

This project covers approximately 3.5 miles on Old Highway 63 North in George County which has been impacted by unanticipated growth in residential homes, commercial agriculture and agritourism, Flanagan says.

This project has two goals:

  1. Repair and reinforce the road’s foundation along with an asphalt overlay and shoulder widening with limestone gravel
  2. Install new safety features to better prevent accidents between large agricultural trucks, private vehicles, and pedestrians, including: lane striping, center lane reflectors, sharp curve signage, and speed limit signs.

All construction will be performed within the existing county right-of-way. The grant proposal says the county could solicit bids around July 2024.

Grain Elevator/River Road improvements

  • $1,599,906 from GCRF, county to provide 20% match at $399,977

This project will repair heavy hauling road base failures, road shoulder widening/repairs, and resurface 7.2 miles of Grain Elevator/River Road experiencing a “tremendous increase” in traffic demands from commercial and population growth. The road serves as a rural corridor connecting Hwy. 26 and Hwy. 63. Design plans call for 1.25 asphalt overlay, two sets of bridge guard rails, road shoulders, lane stripping, sharp curve signage and speed limit signs.

All construction will be performed within the existing County right-of-way. The grant proposal says the county could solicit bids around July 2024.

Barton-Basin Multipurpose Building

  • State appropriation for $1,800,000

Supervisor Larry McDonald says District 3 does not have an adequately sized facility to service residents in the southern part of the county for emergency supply distributions or community drive-thru programs.

Supervisors say it could be completed within 12 months of the funds being allocated. The 5,000 sq. ft. facility on Hwy. 63 will be used as a “staging point” before a hurricane or as a point of distribution immediately following a severe storm or emergency event.

Agricola Community Center

  • State appropriation for $400,000

Inflated material and construction costs in 2022 pushed the overall cost for the Agricola Community Center over budget before engineering and design could even be completed, Flanagan said. The Board of Supervisors rejected both contractor bids in February and planned to cut back on the design.

The legislature allocated $1.6 million for the project in its 2022 session. The design includes a 7,000 square foot building adjacent to Agricola Elementary School with a large assembly hall, conference room, kitchen, an office, storage space, restrooms and covered patio.

East Wilkerson Ferry Road improvements

  • State appropriation for $300,000

East Wilkerson Ferry Road provides direct access to Pascagoula River for boating, fishing, and hiking through Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Park (MDWFP) facilities. The road was originally part of Hwy. 26 but is now owned by the county.   

The first stage will repair, level, and resurface 3.1 miles of the East Wilkerson Ferry Road into the Pascagoula River Wildlife Management Area. The second stage will convert and upgrade 1.4 miles of a semi-compacted dirt road to a fully paved two-lane roadway with signage.

Unfunded projects

At least one request from the supervisors did not receive funding. A bill for $1.475 million in drainage improvements and overlay on Crenshaw Road from Old Highway 63 to the Greene County Line died in the House Appropriations Committee.