Sweet Gum Bottom Road rerouting project hits new snag

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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - Members of the Meridian City Council say they were caught off guard with the city's new financial proposal to reroute Sweet Gum Bottom Road.

In December, contractors told the city council and residents the project would only cost $150,000. Now, that number could more than triple.

"Had they heard it somewhere else, they may say 'hey my councilman told me that this would be really $150,000. Now they're talking about $500,000 or one million,'" said City Council President Tyrone Johnson.

The point of the project is to attract industry. Right now, the road splits two pieces of property. Combined, it would create roughly 320 acres to market, along with potentially hundreds of jobs.

Johnson says he's not against rerouting the road, but he is frustrated with the lack of communication.

"The biggest part is that the constituents are being left out of these conversations. Their voices are not being heard. And I think that's one of the biggest things I have right now is because I don't want to exclude them out on anything that we have to do dealing with Sweet Gum Bottom Road," said Johnson.

If the newly proposed half-million dollar project moves forward, the city will pull the remaining funds from a road bond from 2014 and another bond from 2012.

CAO Richie McAlister says this will not interfere with the city's road paving project.

"We do have the funds available to move forward and if we go with this option, this second option, then it would be about a half-million dollars. We'll still have money to be able to do paving inside the city," said McAlister.

The city previously said it hopes work will begin by February and be completed by April.

"We don't want a half-built road that we have to revisit in two years. We want to make sure the constituents get exactly what we promised them," said Johnson.

Johnson hopes to host another public hearing next week for residents to voice their opinion.

In the meantime, Sweet Gum Bottom Road will remain open.