Greenville City Council eagerly agreed to accept $500,000 from the state during Tuesday’s council meeting.
The funds, which were appropriated from the state general fund through Senate Bill 3049, will be used to assist with the extension of Colorado Street.
The Colorado Street project was given $1 million last year as a result of the state’s settlement with BP, which directed funds to the Greenville project through Senate Bill 2002 to assist in paying costs associated with the construction and extension of Colorado Street from its intersection with George Abraham Boulevard southerly to VFW Road.
“This project is going to have a great and long-standing impact for the City of Greenville,” Simmons said. “To have it funded at an additional $500,000 is great, great news.”
Applause at the meeting was given for Rep. John Hines, Rep. Willie Bailey, Sen. Derrick Simmons and Sen. Eugene Clarke for their successful efforts.
“It would not have been possible without our legislators being a voice for us in Jackson. We commend them for their hard work advocating for us,” Simmons said.
Councilman Al Brock said the project will benefit the community in a variety of ways.
“An additional positive side of this is in conjunction with the medical community,” Brock said. “They are looking at developing in that area. We want to support quality health care and to improve it.”
Scott Christianson, CEO of Delta Regional Medial Center, told the Washington County Board of Supervisors at Monday’s meeting that he is proud of the hospital’s success and plans to continue to progress.
“When you look around the Delta we are one of the strongest hospitals. For the past six years I’ve been looking at our finances and we have one of the best benefits packages especially compared to other areas and rural hospitals,” Christianson said. “There is strong percentage of hospitals across the state that don’t have a strong bottom line. We do. We are not in the same position as many of the other hospitals in the state.”
Christianson said plans to grow DRMC services and revenue have been made. He told supervisors a plan to develop a “Quick Clinic” on Colorado Street will benefit the hospital as well as the community.
“It will fill a void in the community,” Christianson said. “It gives the community an additional service which helps avoid a costly emergency room visit.”
Christianson said the clinic will be staffed with nurse practitioners to begin with and after operational assesment clinic services may be expanded.
The hospital is one example of the possible development on Colorado street.
Last fall, Rep. John Hines said new businesses will be drawn to the developing area.
“New businesses are picking here; we have the expansion of this road. This is showing the world that Greenville is about to grow,” Hines said in September.
When it was announced Greenville would be the recipient of $1 million to extend Colorado Street, several city officials and residents voiced concerns over the project. Some city officials said they should have been involved in conversation about how $1 million could best be used in town and expressed interest in trying to use the funds in a different manner; several residents, on the other hand, said that money would be better spent fixing existing roads, many of which are caving in or filled with potholes.
However, neither the $1 million allocated last year nor the $500,000 from this year’s legislative session can be spent at the discretion of the council. The bills which allocated the funds stipulate the money be spent on the Colorado Street project.
Bailey said state law must be adhered.
“It is not the duty of the Legislature to fund infrastructure and street repairs in the city limits. It’s not customary, and it’s very difficult to get the Legislature to fund streets and potholes; that’s the role of local government to deal with those particular problems,” Bailey said.
Hines said the state awarding funding to the project is a reason to celebrate.
“Greenville is one of the few places in the Delta who got something. That sends a message that Greenville is open for business and we are moving forward,” Hines said.
The stipulation to getting funding through the settlement, Bailey said, was the money could only be used for shovel-ready projects.
“This is the only shovel-ready project we had,” he said. “DRMC was the only entity that had a shovel-ready project.”
And, Hines pointed out, they didn’t have time for discussion. They were in middle of a special legislative session during which they had a chance to accept funds for their constituents.
“We had the opportunity to get something that was not normally there for us to get. We seized a moment,” he said. “Everyone else around us is doing some type of economic development and in some way, shape or form is growing. And we have to keep up or we will cease to fall. One million dollars is a lot of money but it isn’t in the scheme of what this community needs. … This was an opportunity for this community to grab some synergy and move forward.”
Although the project might not seem shovel ready to the public, and Hines admits the “shovel might have a little rust on it,” Christensen and others haven’t forgotten about the 180 acres of land they own just south of town, where Colorado Street will eventually extend.
The land, Christensen said, was purchased about a decade ago with the intent of building a new hospital.
“Things have changed since then,” said Christensen. “Our services are being moved toward outpatient and preventative medicine.”
As DRMC adapts to changes in health care, Hines said the result can positively impact the community.
“The resurge of this community will come through health care,” Hines said. “If we are serious about drawing in new doctors who were born and raised in this state, we have to show we are serious about health care. This community is willing to make that investment, recruit new, young doctors. This gives a clarion call to the health care community that we are serious about growing.”
Despite a decade’s worth of planning and waiting since purchasing the land Christensen, Hines and Bailey agreed the desire to move forward to make that portion of Colorado Street a health care corridor.
“We don’t want it to take another 10 years to break ground but there are a lot of different moving parts,” Christensen said. “But, we are encouraged and excited to be a part of these steps.”