TUPELO • The Major Thoroughfare Program anticipates it will not have enough revenue to fully pay for its current wish list.
Major Thoroughfare stands past the halfway point of a five-year phase, and the leadership committee has three major priorities currently in view: the widening of Jackson Street from Clayton Street to Madison Street; the widening of West Jackson Street from Coley Road to Airpark Road; and the widening of Eason Boulevard from South Veterans Drive to Briar Ridge Road.
In August, the program committee voted on this priority list and moved forward to obtain construction cost estimates.
The program committee met again Monday, and officials now estimate it will cost approximately $16 million to complete these three projects.
Major Thoroughfare is funded by a voter-imposed property tax levy of 10 mills. Program chairman Greg Pirkle, a local attorney, told the Daily Journal that current revenue estimates indicate the committee will come up about $1 million short of the total needed to finish all three projects.
However, Pirkle said he is pleased with how the phase is ending since the committee is getting to do “most of the things we’ve been wanting to do.”
Utility relocation work on the first component of the Jackson Street project is currently underway and expected to be complete by April 2020. The other two projects have not been bid and are only in the design phase.
Pirkle said once the Major Thoroughfare committee receives more concrete estimates, there will be two options: delay the Eason project to be completed until another Major Thoroughfare phase, or ask the Tupelo City Council to fill the funding gap and kickstart the project.
“We’re never going to put the city in a bind,” Pirkle said.
Current rules stipulate that the committee cannot award a bid for a project if the committee does not have sufficient funds in its budget to complete the work. That means all three projects on the current wish list likely cannot be started within the current phase without an infusion of cash from the city.
Kim Hanna, the city’s chief financial officer, told the Daily Journal a funding gap has occurred at the end of almost every Major Thoroughfare phase and described this as “business as usual.”
“Never before going into a phase have we tried to be just perfect with the pencil, and now this is really no different,” Hanna said.
Hanna said the Thoroughfare committee typically has more projects than the funds allow for in order to give the committee more flexibility to make decisions about priorities.
Don Lewis, the city’s chief operations officer, said the committee is “prudent” for looking at three projects instead of just one.
“Instead of just having one project, they have three projects they’re working on right now,” Lewis said. “Two of those projects have not been committed. If they come in high, then it will just become a rollover project. We’re not committed to those projects. We’re just doing our homework.”