OUR OPINION: Discuss keeping MTP on timely schedule

By NEMS Daily Journal

Major Thoroughfare Committee Chairman Greg Pirkle provided information to the City Council at Tuesday’s work session about possible – not certain – financial situations that could confront the MTP because projects in Phase 5 of the Tupelo taxpayer-mandated initiative could move toward bids in quick succession.
That’s good news for taxpayers whose money pays for road improvements, but it could cause cash-flow issues for the MTP fund, which is fed directly by a 10-mill general property tax imposed in five-year increments by referendums. The money pays for what’s been approved.
The prospect of closely-sequenced bid possibilities for several Phase 5 projects could cause a cash-flow squeeze.
Pirkle presented the possibility of asking the City Council to approve – maybe, not necessarily – loans from general fund reserves, to be repaid as tax collections flow in at the regular rate through the life of Phase 5.
We agree with council members at the June 12 meeting (Jim Newell and Nettie Davis were absent) that the possibility needs full-council discussion. And, there may be additional issues touching thoroughfare money and related city projects awaiting clarity and resolution.
The so-called Northern Loop Road, a Phase 4 project, from Coley Road at Belden to North Gloster at Barnes Crossing Road is complete except for necessary bridges crossing the Natchez Trace and U.S. Highway 78. Most of those project funds will come from MDOT or special federal funds, not exclusively from MTP revenue. The Natchez Trace viaduct could go to bid in a few weeks, the MDOT bridge on U.S. 78 in October. The MTP will pay a share. The road is useless without the connector bridges.
Phase 5 will include widening portions of Eason and Veterans boulevards, East Main, South Gloster, South Thomas and West Jackson streets, as well as adding right-hand turn lanes to North Gloster Street near The Mall at Barnes Crossing.
The MTP fund, Pirkle said last week, has about $6.6 million in it, with $600,000 committed to pay for he final work on the Northern Loop – when the bills are submitted.
The thoroughfare program received 82 percent approval from voters in 2011, the fifth time voters have approved the dedicated 10-mill tax. The voters’ will should be taken into consideration before refusing a cash flow loan and further delaying projects some Tupeloans have waited for since the first phase was started two decades ago.