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|OCOG considers spending plan for stimulus funding|
Ouachita Parish officials are reviewing how best to spend some $8.3 million in federal highway funding before Ouachita Council of Governments acts on the matter at a special meeting next week.
OCOG will hold the special meeting beginning at noon, Monday, March 2, to review road projects submitted by the cities of Monroe and West Monroe and the Ouachita Parish Police Jury.
OCOG is in line to get $8.3 million as part of the federal economic stimulus package President Obama singed into law last week.
The city of West Monroe wants to use $4.29 million of the federal funding for the rehabilitation of Montgomery Street. Redoing Montgomery Street has been a top priority for West Monroe for the past several years.
The police jury also has developed a list of road projects totaling $4.3 million. Those projects include work along Good Hope Road, two segments of Dellwood Drive and Louisiana Avenue.
The city of Monroe did not provide a list of its projects to OCOG in time for those projects to be placed on the list for funding through the economic stimulus package.
However, it is expected that OCOG will discuss Monroe's request Monday and determine how best to divide the infusion of federal funding among the three governmental agencies.
OCOG was expected to discuss the projects earlier this week at its regular meeting, but several OCOG members said they wanted more time to review the proposals.
"I don't think we are in a position at this meeting to have enough dialogue to come to any type of conclusion as to how we go forward," said Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo.
West Monroe Mayor Dave Norris agreed.
"That would be the wisest thing to do," Norris said. "This program is a good opportunity for us to do some things that need to be done, but there is no reason for us not to have some more comprehensive discussion."
"We (West Monroe) are very anxious to put that money into circulation very quickly, and we will," Norris continued. "We have a number of projects that we can do that relate to streets, and that money will have an impact pretty quickly."
Montgomery Street is behind Finks Hideaway Road on OCOG's transportation improvement list.
"That's a different pot of money," Norris explained. "That's the urban system money. So if we don't get enough out of the stimulus package to do that, we'll do some street overlays, and some much needed maintenance on some streets. We'll take the Montgomery funding when it comes up on the transportation improvement program.
We'll get Montgomery Street done, but it's a very expensive project because it involves water and sewer lines."
Montgomery Street also is an expensive project because it is an old concrete street. That means it would have to be rebuilt from the base up, Norris said. Currently, Montgomery Street is a narrow four-lane road. Once completed it would be a two-lane street with a turning lane. The street would be rebuilt in the existing right-of-way, Norris said, so the lanes would be bigger.
David Creed, OCOG's executive director, said OCOG wants to have its road projects prioritized and ready to submit to the federal government by April 1.
The projects list is expected to be finalized in late March, Creed said.