Simmons highlights legislative session
by Rory Doyle
May 21, 2013 | 2252 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sen. Willie Simmons visited the Bolivar County Board of Supervisors Monday to provide a brief update on the recent legislative session.

Simmons said the county and Delta faired pretty well in the session and he remains hopeful for further developments related to GRAMMY® Museum Mississippi, scheduled to open by 2015 in Cleveland.

"The project has received a total of $6 million from the state and we hope it continues to move forward rapidly," said Simmons.

He said another big boost to the county would be the partial revamping of the Great River Road State Park along the banks of the Mississippi River in Rosedale.

Lying between the levee system and the Mississippi, the park is still not back to normal following the flood of 2011.

About $205,000 was approved to reconstruct the easternmost portion of the park, the area closest to the entrance gate.

"The money will be used for recreation equipment, fishing and restrooms to help make it a family-friendly area," said Simmons. "The (Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks) will continue to be a part of the project."

Another $120,000 was approved to rehab the popular tourist destination beyond the bridge, a 75-foot high overlook tower, which provides a panoramic view of the river.

Some of this money will be used to build solid picnic tables at the base of the tower, which will be strongly secured in case the river floods to that level again.

Ramie Ford, director of Mississippi State Parks, said earlier this month the tower would only be accessible through planned tours which will be coordinated with the city of Rosedale.

Simmons agreed this is the best approach considering the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency would not fund a total park overhaul.

"MEMA was not going to give us the money we thought," said Simmons. "For some reason they didn’t want to invest the $600,000 or so to do that."

Simmons also encouraged the board to consider investing in the old C & G railroad line north of Greenville that once ran through the Port of Rosedale, saying the surrounding region would greatly benefit from bringing the service back.

Recent changes in intermodal program language would allow a new industry to move into the area and receive state support to reopen the line — as long as the company could offer a minimum of 100 jobs to local residents.

"You as a county need to really think about what you want to do with the rail line," said Simmons. "Think about how important that would be to the port."

He also mentioned the approval of $20 million in the bridge budget, which would provide access to funding to Bolivar County Engineer Bob Eley.

Supervisor James McBride thanked the senator for his overview but also expressed to Simmons he was very concerned about the status of Medicaid in Mississippi.

"I can tell you that at this moment it has not been funded and Medicaid programs are at risk if we don't come to a solution by July 1," said Simmons.

Simmons said he could not give a clear answer to the problem, but resolutions could be determined if Gov. Phil Bryant agrees to hold a special session on the topic.

"The entire community would be impacted if we do not fund the program," added Simmons. "We have until June 30."