Tuesday, March 28, 2017

TIGER projects cost was always over $35 million.

The TIGER grant projects will cost $38.5 million and thus eat up nearly half of a proposed $80 million loan.  The grant will fund a desperately needed improvement for North State Street from Sheppard to Hartfield.  However, the grant will also fund the extension of West County Line Road from its current east end to North State Street.  The extension will cross a railroad so the grant will also pay for the construction of an overpass for the railroad line.  Jackson officials cite the cost of these two projects as the main reason for borrowing $90 million against the 1% sales tax revenue.  Some officials claimed the cost of the projects doubled but the original grant applications say otherwise.

*Discussion last over thirty minutes but the first seven minutes is the essential part to watch. 

The TIGER grant projects will cost $38.5 million and thus eat up nearly half of the proposed $80 million loan (An additional $10 million is held in reserve as a "cushion").  The grant will fund a desperately needed improvement for North State Street from Seneca to Hartfield.  However, the grant will also fund the extension of West County Line Road from its current east end to North State Street.  The extension will cross a railroad so the grant will also pay for the construction of an overpass for the railroad line itself.  The railroad will pass over the new road.  See the map posted below:

Interim Public Works Director Gerriod Smash told the City Council at the February 27 meeting (See beginning of video) that the original amount was $16.5 million and that the city would have to provide a match of approximately $4 million.  The match was thus around 20% of the grant award.  The city was able to obtain another $3 million in TIGER grant funds last year. 

However, Mr. Smash said the  city's matching requirement increased to $19 million even though the TIGER grant only increased to $19.5 million.  Thus the city's required matching funds increased from 20% to 50% of the project.  Engineering Manager Dr. Charlie Williams told the City Council "that the cost of the total project had basically doubled." (4:15).   Mr. Smash said the cost of the project doubled after the engineering work was completed.  Dr. Williams said that the project for North State Street was changed from remilling and paving to actual reconstruction.  He said the original funding amount of $16.5 million would not be enough even though the federal government awarded an additional $3 million.

Well, not so fast, my friend.  Let us start from the beginning of this whole ordeal. The city applied for the TIGER grant in 2015.  However, the application provided by the city and stated on the city's Greeningthegateways.com website said the cost would only be $19.5 million:

The City of Jackson, Mississippi, is requesting $19,490,000 in FY 2015 TIGER Discretionary Grant Capital Investment – Urban funds for surface transportation infrastructure improvements  along  multiple “gateway” corridors within the City. (Application is posted below)....

Under this FY 2015 TIGER Discretionary Grant program request, it is proposed to make these improvements
along the following “Gateway” corridors within the City:
• North State Street
• West County Line Road
Indeed, the application even has a section for "key" information:

The website states $19.4 million as well is the amount of funds requested as well.

However, there is one little table on the second page of the application that mentions $35 million.  That estimate is not mentioned anywhere else in the application or on the website.  The city's matching requirement increases as well.  See for yourself.

The table states that the total cost for the North State Street project would be $19 million and the West County Line Road project would be $16.5 million.  The total cost would be $35.5 million.  Thus the original grant application states that the total cost of the TIGER grant projects would be $35.5 million- a far cry from a $19 million grant requiring a 20% match.  The North State Street project requires a match of $5.7 million while West County Line Road project requires $5 million.

The cost of the project did not "double" as it was over $35 million all along (Watch the video. Mr. Priester gives that part away.) What changed was the story told to the City Council and the Sales Tax Commission.  The actual cost of the project rose while the grant stayed the same.  There was no increase in a matching requirement by the federal government.  

The footnote states that more information about the project can be found at appendix C.  However, the application does not contain the appendix.  However, it does provide a list of links to the appendices on the Greeningthegateways.com website at the end of the application.  Unfortunately, the appendices are not posted on the website.  There is very little actual information on the website.  Only a few introductory paragraphs and a copy of the application are posted on the website.

Kingfish note: Ward 2 Councilman defended the loan and the TIGER grant on his Facebook page:

Update on last week's post about State Street, West County Line, and the TIGER Grant:
We can't do just one of the TIGER Grant projects.  If we don't do both of the TIGER Grant projects on the specified timeline, we will forfeit the entire grant.Also, to the extent we have already spent federal grant money, we will have to pay the feds that back if we pull out.Source: meeting today with MDOT state engineer for local projects who has been involved in making sure Jackson is in compliance with regs. associated with this federal grant.
Ah, yes.  That is the little trap they've tried to spring on the taxpayers. He is correct when he says that we have to follow the specific guidelines of the grant.   They handcuffed the North State Street Project to the Tougaloo Enhancement Project.  Make no mistake, the goal of this entire exercise is to help Tougaloo College and its friends. There is quite a bit of undeveloped land sitting to the east of Tougaloo College.  Spending $17 million to create a railroad overpass and connect West County Line Road to North State Street is not repairing the infrastructure in Jackson and is not why the legislature authorized the 1% sales tax.  There is no way the West County Line Road project would be approved by the 1% Sales Tax Commission when the city has more desperate needs and everyone knows it.  Thus they have to handcuff the Tougaloo development project to a major street in desperate need of repair and tell us to take it or leave it.   The Mississippi Way continues while we wonder why nothing works.

Mr. Priester favors this project and borrowing $90 million because the projects are in his ward and help his friends. Oh yes, it can also be announced right before an election.  However, we should call his bluff and stop this whole project and loan from taking place.  Dr. Williams said the North State Street project would cost around $19 million, right? Simple solution.  That is approximately the same as the city's required matching funds for the TIGER grant.  Simple solution: Cancel the TIGER grant and use the 1% sales tax money to fund the North State Street project.  Jackson can securitize the 1% sales tax to finance that project. Borrowing $20 million is cheaper than borrowing $90 million. The commission will probably approve a specific street project that is funded by a loan borrowed for that specific purpose. 

It's about time someone said no to the Mississippi Way.  It's time to tell Mr. Priester, Tougaloo, and those pushing this deal no.   


Anonymous said...

Should be renamed the Gar Fish express.

Anonymous said...

The overpass is a bullshit boondoggle. And these idiots wonder why no one trusts them. Jackson is LOST.

Anonymous said...

I would say the state should take over the management of Jackson, but then I watch Bryant, Gunn and Company and I realize that would not improve things. Both governments are equally crooked and inept.

Plain ol' Catfish said...

Hell, they need to start from Fortification and work their way up to Countyline Road

Burke said...

"North State Street from Meadowbrook Road to county line"? I hope that is incorrect, because N. State is also a disaster from Duling Street north to Meadowbrook as well. It's right out of western Mosul.

Lets go for a ride said...

Here is an idea: Let's throw the entire City Council (except perhaps Kennuf) in the trunk of a hoopty on 32's and have a "blind ride test". Are we driving on State Street from the old Cherokee location north to County Line or are we on Ridgewood Rd. from Northside to County Line? You make the call! As for the County Line Rd. underpass/overpass, I was a bit confused until I noticed the Neel-Schaffer illustration (they are good at those, got to hand them that) that depicts the railroad going over the connector road. Well, that makes sense seeing as how the railroad IS on a higher grade (elevation) than the State Street/County Line Rd. intersection and there is absolutely no room for a street overpass over the railroad unless you do a flyover of the Logans Steakhouse and Drury Inn or Target, HOWEVER, you don't have to be an Engineer to realize 1) You are going to need one really large "Load Bearing Traffic Circle" before both ends of the bridge so the train can go around in circles while you build the bridge, and 2) Nissan isn't going to be too happy their new vehicles can't be transported south of the plant by rail while you are building the bridge. So maybe that's where you should continue your investigation here Mr. Fish, inquire with the CN Railroad and Nissan on how this would all logistically work out.

Wow said...

Nissan Plant distribution impact due to construction around rail would be a really interesting angle to research.

Anonymous said...

I thought the TIGER grant project on State Street was from Hartfield to Sheppard ???

Anonymous said...

12:30 is absolutely correct. There is absolutely NO need for that overpass. Traffic flows JUST FINE. There simple is not enough traffic on that roadway to justify the cost. Hopefully, somebody somewhere will demand that they make better use of this money. It can't be me because I'm not a resident of Jackson so...

Kingfish said...

It is from Seneca to Hartfield. That is not what was said in all the meetings but it is correct in the application.

Pssst....Hey Buddy....ya got a light? said...

I think the City of Jackson really does have a good plan that will work to their advantage. They have been implementing it for a while now, and the real plan is being overlooked. I don't think everyone realizes this, but they actually want the state to take over the city, because they just don't want to admit they don't know how to make Jackson great again (come on folks, nobody can be as dumb as they are pretending to be...can they?). Once the state gets things turned around, then they can scream about how they have been done wrong. The white folks took the city away from them just as THEY were getting everything turned around...In the meantime, there are some people getting really fat on the $$$ being thrown at them through the impending decline (not a bad way to make a living huh).

Blaze on Jackson.....Blaze on.....

Anonymous said...

Seneca to Hartfield cost $19,000,000? That's only 4 blocks!

James Burke of "Connections" said...

The railroad overpass construction at County Line Rd. would surely prevent new Nissans from being transported further south by rail. The auto auction site just north of the proposed bridge, with the help of Bennie T. could be declared a superfund cleanup site. That is until Deuce McAllister gets a smoking deal on the cleaned up property and once again he's back in the Nissan game. Finally, he'll have the best prices, er, only prices in the entire Southeast because nobody beats a cannon deal until you round up all the cannons and move them to a remote warehouse. There is no conspiracy here, just "connections"!

Anonymous said...

The N State Street proposed project is from Hartfield to Sheppard Road. A reconstruction of the southern end - Hartfield to Meadowbrook, and a milling and resurfacing of Meadowbrook to Sheppard.

The W County Line project is a railroad bridge OVER the extension of County Line. It will not involve a new bridge for auto traffic, but brings the auto traffic under the CN Railroad. All total, the W County Line project involves less than a quarter mile of new road construction. Sixteen million dollars so that Tougaloo College can hopefully open up their property behind the auto auction/ready mix site.

Overall project is ridiculous - spending $40 million to repair two miles of roads while the city is falling in all over itself. Even if half the money is federal it is still tax dollars. Melvin Jr has grown up in a household that believes any 'free money' is good money, so spend whatever it takes to get it. For my pennies, fix North State while fixing other streets in town but don't worry about those green gates that adds dollars for all the consultants to get rich from.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, the legislature just passed a bill making habitual offenders parole eligible after serving only 25% of their sentence.

Anonymous said...

How much did Madison spend on the "Strawberry" overpass to connect Hoy road to 463? Would this be a fare comparison?

Anonymous said...

The original plan for the straightening and extension of County Line to State St called for the railroad track to be moved several hundred feet to the west to allow for County Line to pass over the tracks. I don't think this original plan has been changed. Either way the construction would not impact train traffic to and from Nissan. Remember just a few years ago when they built the new bridge over the tracks in Madison? There was no interruption to Nissan then. As to whether or not this project is needed, I travel this road four or more times a day five days a week. Believe me, it is long overdue. Just sit at the current crossing and watch school buses, city buses and trucks trying to turn west onto County Line off of State St. It is a nightmare, especially if they are southbound. The crossing to the north at the old auto auction site is no better. I have witnessed several car carriers getting "high centered" on the tracks. Do we need another Biloxi type accident?

Kingfish said...

What are you talking about?

Anonymous said...

The 1% sales tax @5:52 is for infrastructure remediation and repair. NOT enhancements.

Anonymous said...

Jacksonians are well acclimated with being ripped off blind by their politicos.

It's 11:20 - Let's Meet For Lunch.. said...

None of the minutia mentioned in the multiple posts above is of consequence. All that matters is who will get the nod to be project manager(s). These guys will get a city pickup and clear at least $70k per year with zero qualifications and no work requirements other than being a supporter of the incumbent.

Anonymous said...

Priester is basically saying hey Jackson, screw the paving of your street, we're slipping in this overpass for Tougaloo and you can lump it.

Does Priester have an opponent running against him in Ward 2? I've got $100 to invest.

Anonymous said...

I can not get over the ignorance and racism of most of the posters, including Kingfish. The W County Line Road overpass will open up the land near Tougaloo for economic development which will bring tax revenue to Jackson. All of this land is not owned by Tougaloo. There are private citizens who own a good deal of it. What most of you posters do not like is that this land is owned by black people who will benefit from the overpass. While I will not argue with you that State Street needs repaving but repaving it will not add ONE Cent to Jackson's tax revenues. Extending W County Line Road to State St./E County Line Road is an economic no brainier unless your brain is consumed by ignorance and racism. And let me be clear, I do not own any of the land on W. County Line Road. As a citizen and tax payer in Jackson I am very interested in any projects that will grow Jackson'a tax base. The W County Line Road is such a project.

I am pretty certain this comment will not be posted, as it speaks the truth about the two Tiger grant awards.

Anonymous said...

This project is a con by Bennie with help from Obama for Tiger grant. Few tax paying residents going to get stuck with debt.

Anonymous said...

March 28, 2017 at 6:47 PM - "Jacksonians are well acclimated with being ripped off blind by their politicos."

I think that is Mississippi in a nutshell - not exclusive to Jackson

Anonymous said...

Shockingly stupid, unnecessary, and wasteful. The contractors (brothers-in law?) are dancing in the streets--

Anonymous said...

Of public funds are used to improve / enhance private lands then at least impose taxes on the private land to offset the public funding payment.

One Lake project is such an example. The land which all of a sudden "becomes" lake front and worth a fortune because public dollars were used should be taxed at a rate to make up for public investment. Either that or portions should actually belong to the city who could then ground lease the land to private users annually for 100 years to recoup the public investment.

Anonymous said...

Heard that a Jackson taxpayer has standing to sue to stop the spending of the special sales tax on the overpass.

Kingfish said...

You're going to accuse me of racism for daring to question this project?

Is that the best you can do?

Anonymous said...

It is all they got KF. It is all they ever have because they have nothing. They can't defend the project scam and so they cry racism.

Anonymous said...

@1:28 - my objection to an overpass at county line/State Street has absolutely NOTHING to do with who owns the land! My objection is that, considering ALL THE THINGS that need to be FIXED in the City of Jackson, this proposed overpass should be very low priority. As for your "development" of the area, there is PLENTY of space to "develop" already. If somebody was going to invest in "development" in/around Tougaloo, they'd find no shortage of space to do it...space that already has the necessary utilities, etc. There are vacant buildings just waiting for someone to come along and put some kind of business in them. If they aren't doing that NOW, what makes you think they are going to do that just because a $90 million overpass has been added to county line road???? And don't tell me the existing road can't accommodate a little increased traffic. I drive that road EVERY DAY. Traffic is NOT a problem. Yeah, there's a railroad crossing. But there aren't constant trains running through there and blocking traffic. I can't even tell you the last time I had to wait for a train to pass...and I take that road EVERY day.

Anonymous said...

1:28 AM - nice try, especially throwing in the racism accusations. But, appropriate for anyone who uses the "R" card whenever they don't have a real argument, your so called facts are just not true.

The land on both the North and the South side of the West County Line road that this underpass will connect to is owned by Tougaloo College. There are 100 plus acres on the north side and 50 plus acres on the south side. ALL of the frontage along West County Line Road east of the current access to North State Street is owned by Tougaloo.

My source - the Madison County Land Roll Maps. Check them for yourself, then come back and bring your R card along with you.

But the bigger question, past your racism comments, is why should the taxpayers pick up the development costs of this property by themselves. When Highland Colony Parkway which is just north of this property on the other side of I-220, was constructed the property owners footed the bill. WHY? Because they profited from the opening up of their otherwise land-locked property. And many of them did well with that development, back during the boom days of yesteryear.

But today, there aren't people jumping up and down to develop along that parkway, and it doesn't carry the "Jackson negatives". Why the city of Jackson believes that this $20 million underpass will create economic development is beyond comprehension except of course considering the economic development professionals that work for the City.

Tougaloo, of course, would love to have the possibility of this development but they are smart enough not to commit their resources to the cost - they are able to recognize the limited potential that exists for these couple hundred acres.

As to the N. State Street economics, the TIGER proposal identifies the great economic potential that will result from this $20 million. The VENYU Technology Center in the old McReas building. Oh, wait............ That's not happening anymore. Guess they ought to reconsider the expenditure of all those dollars as well, but again looking at the non-MENSA leadership of our city, a realistic look at that project won't happen either.

Get with the program said...

If you'll go full screen with the scribd document and view pages 5-7 you'll see the Master Plan (huh? what? They got a Master Plan already?!) for what Tougaloo College wants to do with their property...primarily sports related then healthcare and a 100 room hotel amongst other things. But wait, if you act now you'll not only get ONE railroad overpass but TWO! One at the new intersection of State Street and West County Line Rd. and the other at the Old County Line Rd. crossing. Check out the document!

Anonymous said...

Good observation 7:03, and appreciate your reading the document for us. (I chose to reread my Batman comics from the 80's during my afternoon nap instead.) But this is great news - a hotel, a healthcare facility, a sports facility with indoor AND outdoor fields. Only thing missing is an investor in all these facilities; someone that will actually bring dollars to the table to justify this railroad underpass. I went and looked after you pointed this out, but couldn't find where that investor was identified. Did I miss it somehow?

I did see, though. that there was a real benefit from these two underpasses (yes, there are two!). It willl allow "trains to pass through without blowing their whistle,which is a nuisance for nearby residents"! Hell. That alone should justify at least $10 million of this boondoggle.

The Golfer that exclaimed "FORE!" said...

Yes, I did notice the train whistle comment. Seems like those that live in Patrick Farms in Lower East Perlin put up with the train whistle in the middle of the night no problem. And now that I think about it, the train doesn't blow the whistle late at night at the grade crossings over in Clinton just west of the Lakeview Cemetary, even got railroad signs telling you they won't blow during that time. So much for that excuse!

Anonymous said...

The Fondren stretch of North State Street was a two lane road and right-of-way that was made into a three lane road without improving drainage. The road surface nearest the Fondren business district takes the runoff on the road surface without any storm water infrastructure. Water on the road surface running in the lanes of traffic makes for rapid damage of the road surface. The road surface contour should move water out of the lanes and into the gutters and stormwater inlets. Many drain inlets, grates, and sub-surface networks are silted up. Many Fondren side streets discharge runoff into State Street because their stormwater networks are clogged. The adjoining streets need drainage work so they don't contribute to damage of the main traffic artery.

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