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Meridian leaders discuss fate of Sweet Gum Bottom Road

Today in the city council’s work session, the council, administration, county, and business leaders discussed the fate of Sweet Gum Bottom Rd. and how it involves the industrial park that is being built in that area. City Council President Tyrone Johnson originally promised those constituents a fully paved and lighted alternate road back in an open forum held in December.

“I want to assure them that they are going to get a paved road, lighting put out there, and as well that the promises are kept in that we will not bring any businesses here that will have an environmental impact to those communities. We are going to assure that whatever we do, the constituents out there will get what was promised to them,” said Johnson.

It was originally proposed to the council that this temporary road would cost around $150,000, but now they are being told that estimates show it could be around one million dollars. Administration members such as Chief Administrative Officer Richie McAlister proposed a road that would hopefully cost around $500,000.

“What we’re asking Councilman Johnson and the council to consider is us to be able to put a temporary road right now while we’re working on meeting that commitment. So, that way we can give Lauderdale county and their contractor the ability to start moving dirt across Sweet Gum Bottom Rd.”

Sweet Gum Bottom Rd. runs directly through the spot in which the industrial park site resides. The administration, county, and various business leaders proposed a gravel road for the time being so that they could then build the alternate road up to standard of what the constituents were promised. With the changes in what the cost would be and the fact that some of the council doesn’t want a gravel road, they must now pull back and go over numbers.

“Now, we have to go back to the drawing board and decide what we need to do before we move forward with anything else. Also, we have to make sure the constituents out there know what’s going on in this process because I don’t want to exclude them out,” said Johnson.

There is currently 2.5 million dollars in non-city money that has been invested in the industrial site, and dirt needs to be leveled on the land that Sweet Gum Bottom Road runs through. The moving of this dirt must be completed by November 19th of this year, which is the deadline of the wetland permit that the project currently holds. If this dirt isn’t moved and the permit expires, they will be required to re-apply for the permit which will cost money, and it isn’t guaranteed that the permit will be granted again.

“With this industrial site, you do have the county, city, and our local chamber of commerce all working together to try to bring these jobs to the city. It is our time to shine. If we can accomplish this goal, we will have a premiere industrial site that not only can EMBDC market, but also the state of Mississippi can market to both national and international industries,” said McAlister.

The industrial site could potentially bring hundreds of jobs in the future, and while the council realizes that, they are simply concerned about delivering the promises to the constituents who feel like they have been left out of the whole process.

“Why move forward with something like that and not tell the other council members, especially if they’re going to need our blessing to move forward, because what if we decide not to do so? Then that’s 2.5 million dollars wasted.”

In order to pay for this re-routed road, the administration has proposed using some of the city’s old bonds. Councilwoman Fannie Johnson raised concerns during the meeting about not being able to pave other roads within city limits if a large amount is used on this one road.

“It’s a legitimate concern by the council of not wanting to deplete our road bond. We’ll still be able to pave roads with the funds that are left over from these two bonds if we can go with the plan that we have discussed with the council today,” said McAlister.

Johnson said this subject is to be discussed further at an unknown date.

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