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Cities Officials Say Infrastructure Top Legislative Priority

Cities Officials Say Infrastructure Top Legislative Priority
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Members of Mississippi Municipal League at State Capitol
Desare Frazier

Officials from Mississippi cities and towns are at the capitol urging legislators to pass a bill to fund infrastructure improvements.

Mayor Erick Simmons of Greenville is frustrated. He says the city had to enter into a consent degree last year with the Environmental Protection Agency for violating the Clean Water Act. The city's aging wastewater treatment facility was spilling sewage into creeks and other bodies of water. Simmons says the price tag has gone from $20.5 million to $40 million.

"It takes more money to fix something that's old versus if you would just properly maintaining it year after year after year. And now we're at that point. The cities and towns are now at the point where their fixing up old aging systems that have been neglected for many years," said Simmons.

Simmons says it's an economic development problem that impacts businesses and the ability to attract new ones. He's at the state capitol with other city leaders from the Mississippi Municipal League. They're urging legislators to support a bill being worked up in the senate. Instead of the state returning 18 and 1/2 percent of its tax collections to cities, they would receive 20 percent; money earmarked for infrastructure. Shari Veazey is the group's executive director.

"That's just more of the money that's already being generated in their local economy coming back to them. So, that would be our first choice," said Veasey.

Republican Senator David Parker of Olive Branch says this is the third year he's introduced a tax diversion bill.

"It's certainly part of a solution and it's part of solution that is not going to be used by one area of the state more than another," said Parker.

The bill would increase tax collections to cities in increments of .3 percent based upon the state's revenue.