Stories Written by Joe Rutherford
TUPELO – Lee County’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday extensively discussed taxation and the necessity of adequately funding road maintenance countywide, agreeing to provide themselves with road priorities by district by Sept. 30.
The work session didn’t result in votes on anything, only the verbal agreement to provide highest road maintenance and repair priorities, looking toward a possible bond issue referendum in 2015.
District 1 Supervisor Phil Morgan wasted no time after routine business concluded and the work session started to tell his colleagues there’s only one way to get more money for necessary road maintenance – raising taxes either through a bond issue or with a direct property levy.
Morgan said he was not advocating for a specific tax increase.
Board President Darrell Rankin, District 3, and Bobby Smith, District 2, both agreed, as did District 4’s Tommie Lee Ivy and District 5’s Billy Joe Holland, but no specifics were offered.
Charting a path for road maintenance has been on the board’s radar for several months because as labor and material expenses have risen, a reserve of funds accumulated in the early years of the 21st century diminished, and taxes haven’t been raised for 14 years.
Board attorney Gary Carnathan reminded the supervisors that bond issue income is not subject to a 10 percent increase in income limit applying to raising the regular ad valorem tax.
A bond issue based on 7/10 of a mill in new taxes would produce $510,000 for what’s called the bridge fund, but less $349,000 in road funds because state law requires a diversion in income to municipalities that does not go into the county’s road fund. Municipalities are entitled to a diversion in proportion to their tax value to the county.
District 2’s Smith said he believes voters would support a tax if the county proves it can deliver on its road commitments.
“We don’t get sales taxes. Our revenue doesn’t fluctuate. I can’t help but believe that if we spend wisely the people will support it,” he said.
Morgan noted that having a bond referendum is somewhat like Tupelo’s voter-driven Major Thoroughfare Program, which is approved for five-year cycles and has been highly successful.
The board took no votes, but the developing consensus suggests the earliest action would come in September 2015 because of time constraints and a Sept. 15 deadline to approve the 2015 fiscal year budget.
Most of the heroic figures in what’s called the Great Religions made their names and sealed their reputations, not by conventional acts of heroism, but demonstrating “hiddenness in God” – hiddenness is an “essential quality of spiritual life. Solitude, silence, ordinary tasks, being with people without great agendas, sleeping, eating, working, playing … all of that without being different from others,” as Henri Nouwen described it.
Nouwen, the late Dutch priest whose reputation as a writer and man of faith is worldwide, said, “It is in hiddeness that we, like Jesus, can increase ‘in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and with people.’” (Luke 2:51)
And, one of the early church fathers, St. John Chrysostom, said, “Happiness can only be achieved by looking inward and learning to enjoy whatever life has and this requires transforming greed into gratitude.”
Many of the people of faith who most inspire over a span of several hundred years came from backgrounds in which they indulged themselves seeking happiness, but found their destination in giving it all away and becoming “hidden” in God.
The influence of faithful people who hid themselves for God’s work among people include Francis of Assisi, who seemed to have had it made in a well-off family of Assisi in the 13th century, but he was restless until he turned his intellect, energy and skills to helping people for God’s sake.
This stirring ascription is attributed to him:
‘The Divine Praises’
You are holy, Lord, the only God,
and Your deeds are wonderful …
… You are humility. You are endurance.
You are rest. You are peace.
You are joy and gladness.
You are justice and moderation.
You are all our riches, and You suffice for us.
You are beauty.
You are gentleness.
You are our protector.
You are our guardian and defender.
You are our courage. You are our haven and our hope.
You are our faith, our great consolation.
You are our eternal life, Great and Wonderful Lord,
God Almighty, Merciful Savior.
Every virtuous quality is enmeshed in Francis’ praise, especially fulfillment in joy, gladness, justice and moderation, divine riches sufficient for all.
By JOE RUTHERFORD
TUPELO – Maintenance work on the Natchez Trace Parkway in Northeast Mississippi is expected to be partially complete this week with the most complex project, work on the Town Creek bridge north of the U.S. Highway 78 interchange, extending into January 2015.
Chief of Maintenance Barry Boyd said Wednesday the projects consist of paving and smoothing of rough surfaces from Mississippi Highway 32 to U.S. 78 (32 miles), plus shoulder work and striping extending into September.
The other project, the bridge over Town Creek, includes painting of the structural steel, concrete repair and slope stabilization with riprap.
Temporary traffic lights north and south of the bridge require frequent traffic stops because one lane of the bridge is closed.
Boyd said the pavement smoothing, shoulder work and striping is funded by about $500,000 in extra federal funding the parkway received.
The bridge repair is a contract awarded in March for $1.312 million to Sweat, LLC of Pensacola, Florida. Initial work on the bid started in fall 2013, and work began in June.
One of the parkway’s official websites described the maintenance issues: “The Natchez Trace Parkway is celebrating the 75th anniversary this year. Due to their age, many of the roadways, drainage structures, bridges, and pavement structures along the Trace are in decline.”
The site also reported the 444-mile route from Natchez to Nashville, on which construction started in 1938 and was not completed for more than 60 years, “includes 163 overlooks and parking areas, over 1,000 miles of landscaped road shoulders and 485 bridges.”
Beginning June 24, visitors traveling on the Parkway encountered one-lane traffic for about a mile near milepost 264.4. Those delays are expected to continue until the bridge work is completed.