Lafayette County approves draft road agreement

county_lafayette_greenBy Errol Castens

Daily Journal

OXFORD – The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors on Monday approved entering a preliminary agreement with the city of Oxford for the construction of two roads that each lie partly inside the city and partly outside its bounds.

As drafted, the Regional Economic Development Act (REDA) agreement will provide for spending up to $14 million, split 50/50 between the two entities, to extend West Oxford Loop from Anderson Road to Old Sardis Road and to build a road connecting Sisk Avenue at Oxford High School to Highway 6.

“The purpose of the REDA is not to approve the project itself but to approve a mechanism by which the city can borrow funds for the construction of roads that are part in the city and part in the county,” Board Attorney David O’Donnell said. “Without a REDA agreement in place, the city can’t spend money on roads that are in the county.”

County and city officials did a similar REDA agreement for the frontage road now under construction from Sisk Avenue to Highway 30, most of which is in the Oxford Commons development.

O’Donnell noted that while Oxford officials have indicated they would issue bonds for their part of the project, the county would not be required to do so. He also said many decisions are addressed more generally than specifically.

“The draft before you constitutes the first draft of the agreement. Details have to be worked out,” O’Donnell said. “Anything we agree on in the REDA is considered an agreement in principle.”

One principle likely to stick is that the two projects are inseparable – that one would not be done without the other. The agreement also assumes all funds will go toward design and actual construction.

“This is conditioned on acquisition of right-of-way on both projects from landowners,” O’Donnell said. “The preliminary agreements assume that all rights-of-way would be donated.” County and city officials contend that increased value from new road frontage would more than offset any landowner’s expense in donating land for either road project.

If both entities agree on a few more details, the next step would be to authorize engineers to design both projects.

O’Donnell said, “On the front end, there would be a real cost – the design cost” – adding that he did not have an estimate for engineering fees.

“It’ll be high,” said Supervisor Mike Pickens, who furnished the only dissenting vote for the motion to approve the REDA.

errol.castens@journalinc.com