County Road Projects

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Supervisors seek financing to kick off road projects

By Billy Davis

After they skipped a season of major road projects last summer to hold down taxes, Panola County supervisors are set to choose a financial plan in coming weeks that will jumpstart the program again.

The county board on Monday saw the cost of financing a three-, five- or 10-year general obligation bond to pay for the road projects.

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The next step for supervisors is to develop a priority list then weigh that list against the debt load and length of the bonds, Gary Thompson, president of the board, said after the meeting.

Panola County supervisors have traditionally kept a close watch on the yearly ritual of seasonal roadwork. But the present board, with two new faces, skipped a year of roadwork after being told by then-County Administrator David Chandler that a millage increase would be necessary.

Supervisors agreed instead to spend $1 million in state funds but still had to raise the millage rate five mills in order to balance the current budget.

Road manager Lygunnah Bean has urged supervisors to find a funding source for the seasonal work, telling his bosses that a longtime delay in road maintenance would be difficult to overcome.

Both supervisors and Bean have agreed the road department should focus on improving current paved roads, which are cheaper to improve than paving gravel roads.

Bean, a South Panola School Board trustee, was out of state Monday on a school board trip.

When the present board weighs its options, it will also weigh those choices with the knowledge that several debts related to past roadwork will be paid by 2012, finally relieving the cash-strapped county government of some straining debts.

County Administrator Kelley Magee updated supervisors of the debt situation Monday, telling them a 2005 note now totaling $357,808 is set to “drop off” this year. A second five-year note totaling $154,950 is set to drop off in 2010, she said.

A $1.2 million bond issue and a five-year note are expected to be paid by 2012, she also said.

The “road debt” figures prepared by Magee, and passed out to supervisors, showed Panola County has obligated $9.6 million for road improvements since 2000.

“I couldn’t find anything farther back than 2000,” she later told The Panolian.

The debts were paid – and some are still being paid – through bond issuance, borrowing for short-term notes, and from the county’s proceeds of selling Tri-Lakes Medical Center.

Magee’s figures show $3.5 million in hospital proceeds were used for road improvements in 2006.

Lynn Norris, a certified public accountant from Jackson, prepared the bond figures and presented supervisors with a five-page summary.

Norris represented the Jackson-based firm Government Consultants, Inc.