Cutting  Copiah  County  Out  Of  The  Highway  Funding  Process

See  The  Spending

Over the last 20 years the City of Crystal Springs has seen little to no funds and labor expended by MDOT on drainage and roadwork projects. The last twelve of those years Dick Hall has served as the Central District Transportation Commissioner for Copiah County. While 27 million dollars were being spent on a bridge in Madison, 18.6 million dollars spent on an interchange in Clinton, 58 million dollars spent on the Stack in Jackson, additional millions were spent on projects at the Jackson International Airport(7.8 million - airport), the exit in Byram and for drainage work between Pearl and Brandon on I-20.  We also saw where the neighborhood of Fondren in Jackson - of all places - receive 2.5 million dollars in 2012.

As of September the 17th, 2012 we have learned that the City of Crystal Springs and other parts of Copiah County are once again getting the short end of the stick from Commissioner Dick Hall and MDOT with a 17.1-mile $148,000,000 highway project on I-55 South from McDowell Road in Hinds County “to the Copiah County line.” Within this stretch of highway a 12.9-mile section of the interstate - from McDowell Road in Jackson to the Terry, MS I-55 Downtown Exit - will be widened with an additional lane in each direction.

In the September 26th, 2012 edition of the Meteor it was reported that the I-55 bridges in Copiah County are to be widened by MDOT as a part of this highway project, but this will contribute absolutely nothing to the economy of Copiah County or the traffic flow on I-55 South. Quite frankly, I’m at a loss to understand any value the widening of these bridges will accomplish other than wasting tax payers’ money, money that could be used to clean up the mess at the exits in Copiah County along I-55 South.

MDOT's reason for this 17.1-mile road project is said to be deterioration. I travel this stretch of highway from time to time and I would say that this 17.1-mile road project has more to do with enhancing the economy of Byram and Terry than road deterioration. If Commissioner Hall would like to see some road deterioration he should take Exit-68 into Crystal Springs. There is a short stretch of MDOT road between I-55 and Hwy. 51 that will show him what road deterioration really looks like.

With an internet connection and a few minutes of your time you can see what many people in this area have had questions about for years concerning Exit-68 and Exit-72 on I-55 South. By looking at I-20 exits from Clinton to Brandon and I-55 exits from Terry to Canton you can see where “all of the exits” have been completely cleared of trees and undergrowth, but for some inexplicable reason the exits (68 and 72) on I-55 South to Crystal Springs - that are just as close to Jackson as the ones in Canton - have been allowed to remain covered with trees and undergrowth, "signaling to the traveling public" that there are no reasons for taking one of these exits unless you are going home, essentially killing the economic development potential of the exits to Crystal Springs for the last 20 years.

It make no sense to those of us in the general public to see long stretches of the median along interstates cleared while leaving the exits to cities and town covered with trees and undergrowth, which is exactly what is found between Crystal Springs and Wesson. A reasonable person would think that the process should work in reverse, where the exits are given a higher priority over the median area, which is the way the process does work in other parts of the metro.

After looking at where the cleared exits are in the metro area, I would not be foolish enough for one moment to think that the failure of MDOT to spend any money clearing the exits between Crystal Springs and Wesson is just an oversight. This has been a deliberate decision by the Transportation Commissioners and MDOT to focus on bridge, drainage and highway work north of Copiah County, in the Jackson Metro Area, areas that have experienced moderate to high growth activity over the last 15-20 years.

We can understand MDOT's need to do roadwork in areas that have and continue to experience growth, but they can't continue to handicap Crystal Springs' ability to pull traffic off the interstate with exits that should have been cleared of trees and undergrowth 15-20 years ago, like all the other cities and towns in the Metro Area.

The Transportation Commissioners and MDOT officials are not ignorant or naïve individuals; they know exactly what they have been doing to Crystal Springs and other Copiah County cities and towns that have I-55 exits.

Essentially what Commissioner Dick Hall and MDOT have been saying over the years to Copiah County and its cities and towns, is that we are an Economic Dead Zone with little to no potential for development. It’s my opinion that this is a culture of thinking that has filtered down to the MDOT department in Hazlehurst, the department that is responsible for road maintenance along Hwy. 51.

Once or twice a year we might see the Hazlehurst department come around and cut the grass along 51. Last year I went to the Hazlehurst department to asked about drainage work needed on 51 from South Pat Harrison to the old Skinners dealership in Crystal Springs. I was told that they have trouble getting the funding to buy a dump truck load of dirt. While I was there I learned that Mayor Garland had apparently sent a department head there to also ask about needed projects in Crystal Springs, and from I've observed over the past year, the Hazlehurst department of MDOT is still reluctant to spend money on work that is needed in Crystal Springs.

At the 2011 Tomato Festival I spoke to Commissioner Hall about the need for exits 68 & 72 being cleared of trees and undergrowth when he was campaigning for re-election. Later that year I learned that Mayor Evans had spoken to him prior to that time about the same subject, and here we are more than 18 months after the day I spoke with him at the Tomato Festival and into his 13th year as the Central District Transportation Commissioner and all we can get out of him and MDOT is the grass cut once or twice a year at the I-55 exits. Crystal Springs has not been able to get much more than this in roadwork on Hwy. 51 out of the MDOT department in Hazlehurst which is specifically responsible for Hwy. 51 maintenance.

MDOT's $148,000,000 highway project that “ends” at the Copiah County Line on I-55 is just another public example of this Economic Dead Zone mentality towards Copiah County. From what I can determine, there is no other explanation for the lack of money being spent by MDOT in Copiah County while at the same time finding and spending money everywhere else in the Jackson Metro Area.

Thinking that Copiah County’s turn to get some roadwork from MDOT must be near after reading about the 27 million dollar bridge opening in Madison, I see that I was fooled again once seeing the current roadwork underway from the Madison I-55 exit back towards Ridgeland. Instead of cleaning the I-55 exits in Copiah County and doing some road and drainage work on 51 in Crystal Springs, Commission Hall and MDOT officials have started another project to benefit two of the most affluent cities in the Jackson Metro Area, a project that has probably received a minimum of 10-20 million dollars in funding.

I've come to the conclusion that it would be a good idea for the Copiah County Board of Supervisors, the Mayor of Crystal Spring, Hazlehurst, Georgetown and Wesson to ask Commission Dick Hall to come to a meeting to explain why Copiah County is being cut out of the highway funding process. I would hope tht the supervisors and mayors would invite me to that meeting so that I can hear the explanation. After the meeting I would want to see a federal complaint filed against the State of Mississippi and MDOT over the disbursement of federal highway dollars toward road and drainage projects in Copiah County. There is no question in my mine that none of those federal dollars are coming to Copiah County and haven't come to Copiah County since the election of Dick Hall 12-years ago. I strongly suspect that this Economic Dead Zone mentality goes back more that 20-years when you look back at how little to no work has been done in Copiah County by MDOT.



JUST  MY  OPINION
January 19, 2013

Johnny Griffin
www.crystalspringsmiss.com
sr712@bellsouth.net




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Message:

E-Mail sent to Commission Dick Hall through MDOT's website
February 10, 2013


Commissioner Dick Hall

A number of road projects have begun and been completed in the Jackson Metro Area during your 12 years in office. I have documented a few of these projects in a letter to the editor for the local newspaper in Crystal Springs, MS. A copy of this letter is posted on a website I have about the City Of Crystal Springs at, http://www.crystalspringsmiss.com.

In this letter I took a brief looked at the question of the lack of money spent on road and drainage projects by MDOT in Copiah County, more specifically Crystal Springs due to my daily and weekly familiarity with the residents, government and local activity in this city. From what I can see and determine, MDOT, its officials and commissioners have deliberately decided not to undertake any significant - if any at all - road and drainage projects in Crystal Springs and the rest of Copiah County. This is a well established fact that can be seen through the lack of state and federal funding expended by MDOT in Copiah County over the last 15-20 years in relation to the amount of money spent elsewhere in the Jackson Metro Area. From looking at past years, the best that we can expect to see in any given year from MDOT is the grass cut once or twice a year at the exits on I-55 and along Hwy. 51, where MDOT's work is substandard at its best.

Commissioner, I believe that many people in Crystal Springs think as I do with regards to the lack of money spent by MDOT in Crystal Springs on needed road and drainage projects along Hwy. 51 and at the two exits to this city, exit 72 & 68, that there is an Economic Dead Zone mentality at MDOT against Crystal Springs and other parts of Copiah County.

What I would like to do Commissioner, is to invite you and any other MDOT officials to the next aldermen's meeting in Crystal Springs on the 19th of February at 6:00 pm to give your reasons for not having any funds over the last 15-20 years to spend on road and drainage projects in this city. In particular, I think the mayor, aldermen and residents would like to see someone from MDOT explains why the exits to Crystal Springs have no need to be cleared of trees and undergrowth that handicaps this city's economy by hiding it from the travel public and discouraging development with an unwelcoming sight, which is contrary to the practice MDOT has followed elsewhere in the Jackson Metro Area. Anyone that knows anything about the business community is well aware of the fact that businesses are reluctant to located to exits that are covered with trees and undergrowth, leaving this city with exit 68 and 72 that have not been fully developed since the time they were built, as many as 20 years or more ago, and that would be 12-years under your leadership as the Central District Transportation Commissioner.

To speak at the next aldermen's meeting you will need to contact the city clerk at 601-892-1210 or city hall at 601-892-2422 to get on the agenda to speak before the board of aldermen. If you fail to get you name on the agenda in time, ask to speak to Mayor Sally Garland about the scheduling problem you encountered. She will find a way to solve the scheduling problem so that you and other MDOT officials can speak before the board of aldermen on the 19th.

You can e-mail Mayor Sally Garland at, sgarland_2000@yahoo.com.

To make sure there are no misunderstandings, the website where the letter is posted belongs to me, not the City of Crystal Springs. My interest in the lack of MDOT road and drainage projects that have been undertaken in Copiah County is a personal project I have taken on to get answers to troubling questions many of us have about MDOT's obvious bias against Copiah County when it comes to where Federal and State highway dollars are being spent.

Along with the letter to the editor, this e-mail will be posted on the Internet for residents and elected officials to read. I think that everyone in Copiah County should see that you and other MDOT officials have been given an opportunity to come before the Mayor, Board Of Aldermen and residents of this city to explain why MDOT hasn't been able to find any funds for road and drainage projects in Crystal Springs on Hwy. 51 and at the I-55 exits, while at the same time spending money everywhere else in the Metro Area.

Commissioner, please show some intelligence and self-respect by not replying to this request for your presence with some lame excuse about being browbeaten into taking on road and drainage projects in any part of Copiah County.

For the record, I'm a conservative that consistently votes Republican. In the last election I voted for you.

Johnny Griffin
sr712@bellsouth.net



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At the end of the Aldermen Meeting on February 19th... Mayor Garland informed the public that Commissioner Dick Hall had called her earlier in the day to talk about needed projects in Crystal Springs. Commissioner Hall did not make it to the Aldermen Meeting that night as I hoped for, however it was encouraging to see that he did take the time to have a short discussion with the mayor about MDOT’s interest in taking on some projects to benefit the city.

Knowing that this city has gone for no less than 15-20 years without any significant road and drainage work by MDOT, "Seeing is believing when it comes to MDOT and these projects."



Johnny Griffin
February 23, 2012


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Name: Johnny Griffin
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Message:

MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Melinda McGrath, P.E, Executive Director
401 North West Street, Jackson, Mississippi 39201

4-22-2013

Director McGrath,

As the recently appointed Executive Director of MDOT, you have served as little time in office as the Mayor of Crystal Springs, Mayor Sally Garland, and I understand that you cannot be held responsible for project identification and funding problems to various parts of the state that may have existed prior to your appointment. You and Mayor Garland have a similar situation in that you have a grace period to correct or improve upon past decisions made by others. With Mayor Garland, it’s the failure of city leaders to aggressively address the deteriorating condition of the historic downtown area of Crystal Springs over the last 20-years. In your case, one problem I hope to see you correct is the Economic Dead Zone mentality many of us see at MDOT when it comes to spending money on road and drainage work in Copiah County.

Looking at where MDOT has spent money on road and drainage projects over the last 20 or more years in the Metro Area, it’s quite hard - but a few at MDOT might try - to deny the fact that MDOT’s funding of road and drainage projects end at the Copiah County line. An accounting of the dollars spent in Copiah County on road and drainage projects over the last 20 years, in comparison to Hinds, Madison and Rankin County, would easily confirm this spending practice.

The most noticeable observation a person makes while traveling in the Metro Area are the exits, and how it is that all the exits in the Metro Area leading to cities and town are cleared of trees and undergrowth up until you get to the Copiah County line. These exits should have been cleared of trees and undergrowth 20-years ago, instead, MDOT has allowed these overgrown exits to handicap Copiah County cities and town along I-55 South for the last 20-years. Crystal Springs, the city I’m more familiar with, has two I-55 exits. These exits are not fully suitable for commercial development because of the disgraceful condition MDOT has left them with trees, undergrowth and I suspect drainage issues. What business wants to locate to one of these exits, 68 and 72, knowing that they will be hidden from the traveling public, and what traveler wants to take an exit where there are questions of safety?

In this one area alone, the condition of the exits, think of all the economic damage MDOT has done to Copiah County over the last 20-years. The economic damage from lost north and southbound traffic through Crystal Springs on I-55 South, because of the overgrown and underdeveloped exits, would have to be in the millions per year.

Mrs. McGrath, I don’t see some little oversight someone has made at MDOT with regards to these I-55 South exits and other areas of neglect in Crystal Springs along Hwy. 51, I see a deliberate spending practice by a state agency and its commissioners that existed prior to your appointment.

Where we go from here is the beginning of your responsibility for the actions of MDOT in Copiah County.

Crystal Springs has a mayor and some young aldermen with the capability to pull Crystal Springs out of the economic hole its been in for 20-years, but their capability has not to this point and will not in the future overcome the handicap MDOT has placed on this city’s economy with the condition of the exits and Hwy. 51. The 2 1/2-mile stretch of Hwy. 51 that goes through Crystal Springs must be 50 or more years old. Approximately two years ago I did see three MDOT workers throwing out a little asphalt for us on 51.

They had to have seen or know about the drainage ditch big enough to hide 3-4 18-wheelers as you enter Crystal Springs from the south on 51.

In two e-mails to Commissioner Dick Hall I discussed the spending at MDOT that excludes Copiah County. The e-mails have been posted on a website I have about the city. They can be found here, along with this e-mail to you, http://www.crystalspringsmiss.com/MDOT_Copiah_County_Funding/MDOT_Funding.html.

I’m posting these e-mails on the Internet for the local community to see how hard it is to get a state agency to correct problems that have existed for more than 20-years.

Mrs. McGrath, in June of this year I am going to ask Mayor Garland and other elected officials in Copiah County to sign a letter to Congressman Thompson, Senator Wicker and Cochran calling for an investigation into the lack of federal highway dollars spent in Copiah County over the last 20-years. I don’t see this letter being sent until late June. If you and Commissioner Hall can develop a solution to the problems with the exits and Hwy. 51 prior to this time, all of us would gain from your work and cooperation.

Any ideas or plans should be discussed with Mayor Garland or other elected officials in Copiah County. I attend the aldermen meetings in Crystal Springs on a regular basis. If Mayor Garland has any good news about this subject, I’m sure I’ll hear about it at one of these meetings. Mayor Garland will be sent a copy of this e-mail and know to expect a visit from me in June if you and Commissioner Hall decide that this matter should be handled at the federal level.

Johnny Griffin
sr712@bellsouth.net


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If you need any further assistance with this matter, please call the Public Affairs Division at (601)359-7074. You may reply to this email to update the status of this request.

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MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Melinda McGrath, P.E, Executive Director
401 North West Street, Jackson, Mississippi 39201

Date: 11-28-2013


Director McGrath,

In an e-mail to you, dated 4-22-2013, I mentioned the roadwork needed on Hwy. 51 in Crystal Springs and the importance of clearing the trees and undergrowth at exit-68 and 72 on I-55 South to this city. Since receiving that e-mail MDOT has cleared some undergrowth and thinned out a small area of trees at exit-72, repaved a short stretch of road as you come off exit-68 and notified the city that it plans to repave a 3-mile portion of Hwy. 51 that runs through the city. From what I have been told, MDOT plans to begin the roadwork on Hwy. 51 in or around July of 2014 after the bridge repairs along I-55 in Copiah County are completed.

Judging from what has been done to date with the clearing of trees at exit-72, the work completed shows how attractive these exits can be to the traveling public and prospective businesses we want to bring to the I-55 exits in Crystal Springs and Copiah County in general. As you continue thinning out the trees to improve public safety at exit-72, this will also preserve the scenery the tall pines and older trees provide while at the same time allowing travelers along the interstate to see the businesses through the spaced out trees. The I-20 exits to Pearl, Forest and Morton are good example of MDOT’s past work in clearing the underbrush and spacing out the trees at an exit so that they don’t obstruct the vision of the passing motorist. At the Forest and Morton exit this work was done on both sides, the east and west lane side of I-20. I think that MDOT should provide Copiah County with I-55 exits that are just as attractive as the ones I’ve mentioned on I-20.

Several months ago the clearing at exit-72 to Crystal Spring and exit-61 to Hazlehurst stopped, leaving me to question the extent to which MDOT plans to clear these exits of trees and undergrowth.

I would like to assume that the entire area - of trees in the center of the exits - is going to be cleared in the same manner as the small area that has been completed at exit-72, but I have learned from experience that assuming someone is going to do something is poor planning. For this reason I would like to see the City of Crystal Springs receive conformation from MDOT that it plans in 2014 - to completely clear the entire center of the exits of undergrowth and thin the area of small trees following the plan that you have begun.

Another problem with the I-55 exits to Crystal Springs, Hazlehurst, Gallman and Wesson, that is obvious to the locals in Copiah County, is the missing lighting at these I-55 exits that is found at the Terry, Wynndale and Byram exit. Not only do we find I-55 lighting to the north of Copiah County, we find it to the south in Brookhaven and Hattiesburg. Mrs. McGrath, this is just another reasons why I’m a little suspicious of an unfavorable attitude towards Copiah County that may have been present at MDOT prior to your appointment to the position of executive director.

At the Wynndale exit you have one convenience store that gets I-55 exit lighting. The city of Terry has a monthly sales tax revenue of approximate $21,000 a month in comparison to Crystal Springs with $61,000 and Hazlehurst with $100,000, further leaving residents in Copiah County to wonder about the methodology MDOT uses to evaluate which I-55 exit merit lighting. Byram that also has I-55 lighting, averages about $130,000 a month in state sales tax collection. My reason for bringing sales tax revenue into this discussion is to give you a better perspective of how these cities and town, with and without I-55 lighting, currently rank in their contribution to the state’s budget, where you have approximately 1/7th of their sales tax revenue going to the county, 1/7th going to the town or city, and 5/7th of their sales tax revenue collection going to the state of Mississippi.

With MDOT’s current budget of 1-billion plus dollars or approximately 1/7th of every 7-cents collected on a dollar in sales tax, or 1/5th of the state’s budget, slightly more than 5-billion dollars, we all have a financial interest in seeing the I-55 and Hwy. 51 pathways into the cities and towns of Copiah County raised to a higher standard to attract more businesses and sales tax revenue.

The biggest problems facing Copiah County are the ones that need to be addressed by MDOT at the I-55 exits and along Hwy. 51.

Mrs. McGrath, an 8-07 2013 article that ran in the local newspaper stated that the money budgeted by MDOT for the repaving of Hwy. 51 amounted to $850,000. This amount of money will not allow for the additional work that is needed on Hwy. 51 where we have 3-drainage ditches that need cleaning, culverts and/or filling.

(1) In front of the new Dollar General Market there is drainage ditch that is covered in trees and deep enough to hold 2-3 tractor-trailer. After the leaves have fallen, passing traffic gets a clear look at this ugly sight MDOT has ignored and left for the residents and business owners of this city to look at every day.

(2) In front of Guynes Auto Parts and Fred’s Dollar Store on Hwy. 51 we have another drainage ditch filled with trees and poorly kept my MDOT over the years that is in need of attention.

(3) The shoulder that runs along Hwy. 51 and Chautauqua Lake has eroded over the last 20-years needs rebuilding with new dirt. Running under 51 and emptying into the lake there is an open culvert with no railing that is a danger to pedestrians and traffic passing the lake because of its dangerously close proximity to 51 and its 25’ drop into the open culvert. Not only do we need this work done, we need a better effort being made by MDOT to keep the drainage ditches cleaned and cut, the trees trimmed and the grass cut along 51 in Crystal Springs. MDOT’s practice of cutting the grass once or twice a year is a pitiful maintenance policy. We need an attractive pathway into the city to attract businesses and tax revenues for the city and the state.

Greatly hampering MDOT’s maintenance of Hwy. 51’s pathway into Crystal Springs is your lack of efficient equipment.

It normally takes 2-trucks with 4-5 men and chainsaws to spot-trim the trees along 51 once a year, leaving the limbs on the side of the highway for another crew to come by and pick up or left to be an eyesore. Standing on the ground, these men can only cut limbs a few feet above their head. On the other hand, if you employed the use of a tractor with a boom mower attached, that can reach 14’ to 15’ high, one man and this tractor could cover the area that would otherwise require 50 men with ladders, chainsaws and additional trucks to haul off the cut limbs. With the limbs being finely cut by a boom mower, there is no need for a crew to follow behind. Copiah County uses a boom mower to help maintain county roads and it is amazing to see how much territory one man with a boom mower can cover in a day and do it better than a crews of men and chainsaws.

The ditches and trees along Hwy. 51 through Crystal Springs are poorly maintained. It would take no more than 2 day for one man and a boom mower to cover this 3-mile stretch of road.

A tractor with a boom mower sells for about the price of two of your new trucks, $60,000 to $70,000, and the fuel would be a fraction of what it cost to operate the two trucks. To make sure that you know what I’m talking about, I’m sending you a link to a website that sells boom mowers.
http://www.iowafarmequipment.com/bush-hog-tractor-boom-mowers.html

In the same newspaper article that I have mentioned, you and Commissioner Dick Hall itemize the money that has been committed to Copiah County over the last 10-years, an amount – according to the article - that totals $54.5 million dollars. The article also states that MDOT has designated approximately $14 million dollars in funding for future projects, including $850,000 to overlay Highway 51 running through Crystal Springs. Below is a listing of the spending found in the newspaper article.

Significant Project Since 2003:

$2.7 million – Overlay of Pat Harrison Drive in Crystal Springs and replaced 2 railroad bridges
$3.2 million – Overlay of Hwy. 27 from Georgetown to Crystal Springs

$1.5 million – Overlay of Hwy. 28 in Hazlehurst
$4.5 million – Overlay of I-55 from Hazlehurst to Crystal Springs
$2.7 million – Overlay Hwy. 28 from Hazlehurst to the Pearl River
$1.4 million – Overlay of Hwy. 51 from Hazlehurst to Pat Harrison Drive
$7.6 million – Overlay of I-55 from Hazlehurst to Crystal Springs
$2.1 million – Overlay of Hwy. 51 from Lincoln County line to Hazlehurst

$2.9 million – Interstate maintenance of I-55 from Crystal Springs to Hinds County line
$4.3 million – Interstate maintenance of I-55 from the Lincoln County line to Hazlehurst
$10 million – I-55 bridge widening to current standards
__________________________________________________________________
$42.9 million ($11.6 million less than the $54.5 million reported in newspaper article)

Future Projects:

$850,000 – Overlay of Hwy. 51 in Crystal Springs
$1.0 million – Overlay of Hwy. 27 from I-55 in to Hinds County line
$9.9 million – Bridge replacement on Hwy. 18 from Bayou Pierre to Hinds County line
$1 million – Copiah-Lincoln Community College – LPA Project will reconfigure entrance for pedestrians
$1 million – Reconfiguration of he Hwy. 7 and Lee Ave. intersection near Crystal Springs
$500,000 – Construction of sidewalks and pedestrian path for the Town of Wesson
__________________________________________________________________
$14.25 million

Mrs. McGrath, as I look at the dollar figures you and Commissioner Hall have provided, I would say that to a small degree that you and Commissioner Hall have refuted my blanket statement that MDOT has cut Copiah County out of the Highway Funding Process. The focus of my comments has been on the I-55 exits and Hwy. 51 running through Crystal Springs, the doorways to our cities and town in Copiah County that current handicap our economic growth. Those of you at MDOT, the USDOT and I all know that most of the dollar figures you have provided have more to do with routine state and federal maintenance projects than the economic health of this county. All of this aside, I will give you and Commissioner Hall credit for showing that MDOT has been spending money in Copiah County if MDOT would likewise accept responsibility for the economic damage to Copiah County by leaving us economically handicapped against other cities - along I-55 and in the Metro Area - for no less than the last 20-years with I-55 exits that are unsuitable for full development due to drainage, lighting and landscaping issues.

Looking at MDOT’s past and future spending as seen in the figures you and Commissioner Hall have provided, even to this day, Mrs. McGrath, MDOT has allocated no funding for obvious problems with these I-55 exits. How much longer are those of you at MDOT going to cripple our ability to use these exits to encourage development and generate tax revenue?

Again, as I look at the figures that you and Commissioner Hall have provided, I see many opportunities since 2003 where money could and should have been spent on the I-55 exits and Hwy. 51 running through Crystal Springs. Instead, the money was spent on projects of a far less critical nature to the economic health of this county. MDOT’s spending in Copiah County should have started at the I-55 exits where the largest flow of money is found and most businesses would like to build. In 2014 I hope to see MDOT address all the issues regarding these areas of immense importance to our economic health.

You and Commissioner Hall have made progress in addressing some of the long-unresolved problems we have in Crystal Springs. I hope that the additional information I’ve provided has given MDOT a clearer picture of the work that is needed.

Mayor Garland will be sent a copy of this e-mail to reference in any discussion with MDOT officials working in this area. I do not speak on behalf of the city or the mayor, but I have notified the mayor of this personal project I have taken on to get MDOT to allocate needed funds for exit, drainage, lighting and roadwork in Copiah County. If there are any questions I would encourage you to contact Mayor Garland for any additional information.

Johnny Griffin
sr712@bellsouth.net



___________________________________________________________________________________________________________


December 4, 2013


The Meteor
Crystal Springs, MS

Dear Editor:

In an 8-07-2013 Meteor article entitled “MDOT invests in Copiah County,” I found many of the million dollar figures supplied by MDOT to be a misrepresentation of the facts. The most blatant misrepresentation had to do with the repair work currently underway with the I-55 bridges in Copiah County. According to MDOT, the $10 million being spent to widen these bridges is money - listed in the article - spent in Copiah County. Even though the bridges are physically located in Copiah County, the money being spent on these bridges has nothing to do with Copiah County. This bridgework is a part of the $148 million 3-lane project north of Copiah County, in Hinds County, having nothing to do with strengthening the economy in Copiah County or being a project pursued by any local official. Also claimed in the article was $7.2 million for Interstate Maintenance as Copiah County spending, and from this we must assume that all MDOT vehicles and personnel that travel through Copiah County have this travel expenditure recorded as an MDOT investment in this county.

Another discrepancy I noticed was with the total amount of dollars claimed by MDOT to have been spent in Copiah County since 2003. According to the article, $54.5 million has been spent in Copiah County by MDOT since 2003, but once adding the figures provided, total spending was $42.9 million, an error of $11.6 million.

The article had $28.8 million ($10m + $7.2m + $11.6m) in discrepancies. If we subtract these discrepancies from the $54.5 million claimed by MDOT to have been spent in Copiah County, we see that MDOT spending in Copiah County since 2003 was $25.7 million.

Any additional spending in Copiah County by MDOT should begin with lighting, drainage, and landscaping work at the I-55 exits, where is should have begun 20-years ago.

Johnny Griffin


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May 16, 2014

The Meteor
Crystal Springs, MS

Dear Editor:

For the last 3-years I’ve had a personal project I’ve pursued that will continue until it is completed. This project includes the paving of Hwy. 51 running through Crystal Springs, landscaping and other needs of the pathway into Crystal Springs on Hwy. 51 and South Pat Harrison, and lighting and landscaping for all the I-55 exits in Copiah County, just like the I-55 exits to the north and south of Copiah County. From the beginning I have made an effort not to involved local officials until needed in order to keep them out of any ugly disputes that could occur with MDOT over its funding of highway and Interstate maintenance issues in Copiah County. This project surrounds basic maintenance issues primarily found with MDOT’s care of I-55 exits and Hwy. 51.

Knowing about many of the MDOT projects in the Metro Area counties, Hinds, Madison, Rankin and Copiah, I could see what many of the residents in Copiah County could see as they travel around in the Metro Area, that there were a lot of tax dollars being spent by MDOT to the north but very few to the south at home in Copiah County.

We shouldn’t have spend our time questioning management at MDOT, the commissioners and the executive director, but when you see where MDOT has spent between $630,000,000 to $700,000,000 – and likely more - over the last 10-years in the 3-counties to the north, Hinds, Rankin and Madison, you start asking question about why MDOT won’t allocate the funding needed for highway and Interstate maintenance issues that hinder the growth of Copiah county.

Many of you may remember that MDOT reported in the Meteor, dated 08-07-2013, that they have spent $54.5 million in Copiah County since 2003 and that another $14.25 million had been allocated for future projects, a total of $68.75 million dollars. Without going into the details, MDOT threw in the dirty kitchen sinks, broken toilets and a big mess of scrawny squirrels - too old to crack a nut - to inflate this number to $68.75 million. The actual amount of spending since 2003 is much closer to $38.45 million once you throw out the grants and other spending that was inserted to inflate the number for the total amount of spending since 2003. Without the dates for this spending, I would be hesitant to believe that all of this supposed spending in Copiah County by MDOT occurred or was allocated between 2003 and 2014. Looking at the unsightly exits in Copiah County with no lighting and the pathway along Hwy. 51 in Crystal Springs, I wouldn’t trust MDOT to be truthful no more than I would trust a chipmunk with the switch to an atomic bomb.

This month I sent a letter to MDOT requesting Central District Highway Commissioner Dick Hall and MDOT’s Executive Director, Belinda McGrath to attend the next aldermen meeting on June the 10th. I also plan to ask several Copiah County officials to attend.

In the letter I have also asked MDOT to allocate $15 - $20 million (general estimate) for needed work along Hwy. 51 and lighting and landscaping work at all the I-55 exits in Copiah County. They have been given two options. One, they can work with officials at the local level to correct the spending problems we can clearly see or Two, they can roll the dice to see if I and/or Copiah County elected officials can persuade the Inspector General’s Office of the U.S. Department of Transportation to investigate the spending of MDOT - for the Metro Area counties - with a better calculator that undoubtedly will shows a disproportionately bias spending practice with regards to I-55 and Hwy. 51 maintenance issues that have kept Copiah County at a disadvantage against the three counties to the north for a period of no less than 10-years or as many as 20.

Exits are the doorways to your city. Businesses and shoppers won’t come to your city when your exits and highways look like the backdoor to Hell in comparison to what you see at the well-landscaped exit in Brookhaven.

Johnny Griffin




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E-mail to Commissioner Hall and Director McGrath

June 10, 2014

Commissioner Hall and Director McGrath: I would like to remind you of the need for your appearance at the board of aldermen meeting on June 10, 2014. At this meeting you will be given an uninterrupted opportunity to lay out your plan for the drainage, landscaping and lighting needed at the I-55 South exits in Copiah county and the additional work needed along Hwy.51 in Crystal Springs and at the intersection of Hwy. 28 and Hwy. 51 in Hazlehurst, MS.

The aldermen meeting will begin at 6:00pm. It will take about 30-minutes to run through the regular agenda item. After the mayor and aldermen have finished with the regular agenda items you will be given time to discuss your plan and listen to any comments. I would estimate this work to cost between 15-20 million dollars and take no longer than 2-years to complete. Completing this work will allow Copiah County and its cities and towns along I-55 to better compete with the counties to the north for new businesses and customer traffic that is generated by I-55 north and southbound traffic in the Jackson Metro Area.

I would like to see you accept this opportunity to resolve these problems without the need of a federal investigation by the Inspector General’s Office of the U.S. DOT. Solving problems is more productive than prolonging them and their consequences.

The aldermen meeting will be held at city hall. If you do not arrive until 6:30pm – that will be fine. It will take at least 30-minutes to run through the regular agenda.

Your failure to appear with a plan for resolving these problems will send this matter to the Inspector General’s Office to be resolved under their oversight.

Johnny Griffin
sr712@bellsouth.net