By KELLY DANIELS
A bill with a federal grant request of $850,000 for Starkville’s infrastructure is now circulating in Congress, officials say.
The Omnibus Appropriations Bill for the fiscal year 2011 now making its way through Congress includes an application from the City of Starkville and Mississippi State University for funding of improvements to Airport Road, MSU President Mark E. Keenum announced Wednesday.
Having been debated in the Senate, the bill includes $8 billion in earmarks, which is less than 1 percent of the total package.
Dr. Keenum’s report came Wednesday during a roundtable meeting with other leaders and executives at the Greater Starkville Development Partnership.
The grant request was made to fund a paving overlay of Airport Road and a new entrance to the west side of the airport property from the Highway 25 bypass.
“We don’t know the outcome,” Wiseman reported. “But we should fairly soon.”
Improvements to Airport Road, Wiseman added, would significantly enhance Starkville’s property that is critical to economic development.
“It’s very nice that we all came to the conclusion that this is what we’re going to ask for,” Partnership CEO and President Jon Maynard said.
Wiseman said the group has plans to prepare an annual list of state and federal funding requests along with a Washington D.C. trip tentatively scheduled for late February or early March.
Keenum also announced Wednesday that the university needs to expand its parking availability and has already secured services from an architect to design a parking garage.
“This final decision has not been made yet,” he said.
To maintain its required people-to-parking ratio, the university will need 1,200 new parking spaces, according to growth estimates.
A parking lot holding that many spaces would take up 10 acres. The parking add-ons could also result in a combination of a parking garage and paved parking.
“We may have to downsize it a bit,” he said, explaining that a parking garage would have to aesthetically harmonize with the campus landscape.
An additional architect for the university’s master plan, a modifiable strategy for future growth, is looking at various locations throughout the campus for a parking garage including an area near the YMCA building and one near McCarthy Gymnasium. Keenum expects for the master plan’s final draft to be complete in early January of next year.
City and university officials have also discussed creating a joint public transportation route, expanding the current Night Route, that would serve both city residents and MSU students and faculty while also alleviating some of the pressure for more parking.
Local officials have met each quarter this year as part of the City of Starkville’s strategic plan that includes collaborating projects and meetings with Maynard, Keenum and the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors.
The group will continue to meet every third week of every third month starting in March, Wiseman said. MSU will host the March meeting, and the GSDP will organize the next three. “This was the last leg of what I think was a very productive cycle,” Wiseman said. “It’s been a good year.”