By CARL SMITH
As Orlando Trainer’s vehicle kicks up rocks and mud while traveling through Oktibbeha County’s winding gravel roads Monday, the District 2 supervisor says a little asphalt can go a long way toward improving quality of life and economic development.
“Infrastructure is the basic function of government because it impacts everyone no matter if they’re rich, poor, white or black,” Trainer said as he turned onto Osborn Road. “It’s always good to help people no matter what district they’re in. Improving roads improves our community. We shouldn’t wait until they deteriorate to maintain them.”
Trainer led a tour through District 2 Monday and highlighted many of its areas in need of infrastructure improvements. In the previous Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors meeting, Trainer told fellow county representatives “now is the time to act on road projects.” Funding for such projects could come from realigning the county’s budget, borrowing money without impacting the millage rate or by a bond issue. All options are on the table, Trainer said, as long as county residents are in agreement.
Pat Station Road, the first road Trainer pointed out Monday, is a thoroughfare which extends into Starkville and allows commuters to travel from the Highway 12 bypass to Highway 25 via Garrard Road. From the city, Pat Station Road connects to Old West Point Road via 16th Section Road.
“There are 30 to 40 families in this area,” Trainer said on a gravel portion of Pat Station Road. “This project was worked into a county road plan and should have been completed during a previous term, but money and weather issues delayed the project. We can only do so much at a time, but we need to get out of the habit of adjusting our road plan around delays.”
Improving the portion of Pat Station Road closest to the bypass could help spur economic development in the area. A portion of land on each side of Pat Station Road in that area is designated commercial, Trainer noted.
As for stimulating housing growth in the county, Trainer said work to Osborn Road could serve as an example toward raising property values in a small community.
“There’s a lot of history in Osborn. While growth in other county areas has occurred, it really hasn’t happened here,” Trainer said. “You could say a $1 million investment — just a ballpark figure — out here would pay dividends easily because the cost of the project could easily double in the future. All of the land out here is highly developable. Paving this area of Oktibbeha County would not only improve the quality of life for this community’s residents, but also bring about more people looking to build out here.”
By marketing the county as a place to live, Trainer said the tax base would increase along with funding for services.
“I think we can market ourselves as a bedroom community. We can tell people that if they want to work in Lowndes or Clay (counties) that’s fine, but you can live here,” he said. “We’re growing very quickly in Oktibbeha County. The way you increase quality of life is through infrastructure and education. These road projects would help our communities across the board.”
Besides paving projects, Trainer said other infrastructure projects would target road flooding. County drivers routinely find portions of Muldrow Road, located west of Osborn Road, flooded after significant and mild rain events, he said.
“There’s no excuse to have a road underwater in 2012,” he said. “We can raise the road to help fight this and we can also knock back (vegetation which blocks sunlight) from the roads.”
The board took no action Jan. 18 after Trainer discussed the need for project funding. Supervisors did agree a work session should be held in the future to develop specific goals and analyze payment options.