Lowndes County Board of Supervisors looking to upgrade water and sewer services with ARPA money

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors held a workshop Monday to discuss the use of their pandemic relief funds.

The Board has elected to spend $10 million of their American Rescue Plan Act funding under the revenue loss category, which allows them to spend money on typical government services.

Upgrading local water and sewer services is one area the board is focusing on and it was the main topic of their special meeting on Monday.

The Board of Supervisors held a discussion with Timothy Smith, senior manager with the Horne Group, the consulting firm helping them identify projects that qualify for ARPA funding.

“One of the things that we have to do is make sure that it is a permissible use of funds,” Smith says. “So just being a water project in and of itself does not necessarily mean that it’s permissible.”

Lowndes County is set to receive a total of $11.3 million in ARPA funding. They received half of that in 2021 and will get the other half during the summer.

The board would like to use some of the roughly $1.3 million of the remaining money to make repairs to the Lowndes County Industrial Development Authority’s water treatment plants.

“We have our own water sewer treatment plants out there that provide water to most of the industrial park,” says board president and District 2 Supervisor Trip Hairston. “And therefore, there’s rehab that needs to be done. The first cost estimates to $930,000.”

Board members say they also want to use ARPA money to improve rural water system associations, something the county normally doesn’t have the authority to do.

“We’re going to develop some sort of survey, see how shovel-ready those projects are, who’s impacted, the demographics that are impacted,” Hairston says.

Hairston says they have received nearly $14 million worth of project requests from towns that include Caledonia and Columbus.

“The Mississippi Legislature has done a good job of trying to make sure that the money will go to, in many respects, just traditionally disadvantaged communities,” Smith says.

Hairston says that using the ARPA funds in this way allows them to invest in the present and future of Lowndes County.

“If you can expand a rural water association, that expands water,” he says. “You’re looking at growth and you’re looking at residential growth in Lowndes County. That’s important for our future to have growth.”

Hairston says the board has already started asking for bids on the water treatment plant project, which they will proceed with regardless of ARPA involvement.

Plans for ARPA funded projects must be made by December of 2024, and the money has to be spent by September 30th 2026.

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