Hattiesburg City Council begins discussion for using federal relief funds

Hattiesburg City Council begins discussion for using federal relief funds

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Monday evening Hattiesburg City Council members in Hattiesburg held a regular work session and many brought up how they want to see the city’s federal COVID-19 relief money spent.

The city can expect its first installment of federal funds totaling $13.6 million later this month. The state allocated the federal funding to municipalities and counties in its most recent session.

WDAM spoke with two council members about where they want to see the money spent.

Councilwoman Mary Dryden, of Ward 4, brought up drainage infrastructure issues.

“We had these needs anyway, we need to plan to take care of these drainage issues,” Dryden said. “It’s something we’ve talked about, and we had to address the water and sewer lines first and what we’ve learned in that process is going to help us greatly with working with drainage issues.”

Ward 2 Councilwoman Deborah Delgado raised concerns about the strength of broadband internet across the city.

“We experienced a difficult situation when our children had to stay home for their education, and if they didn’t have internet access, that’s a problem,” Delgado said. “So going forward I want to make sure that they have it in their homes, even though they are back in school because it increases a child’s chance of success.”

The Department of the Treasury will release specific guidelines for how the money can and cannot be used in two months. In a recent visit to local leaders, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hoseman encouraged cities to start planning infrastructure projects like water, sewer and broadband now. Local leaders have three years to spend the money. He said this money cannot be used on roads.

Dryden says bringing up her ward’s needs and city infrastructure improvement sooner rather than later is crucial to accomplishing it.

“In order to be able to use any funding that comes our way, we need to be shovel ready” Dryden said. “That’s the term that’s used. So planning is very important, planning takes time. So we don’t want to wait and have an opportunity to fund something but not be ready to present the plan. So we’re being proactive here.”

Dryden hopes she can get drainage to the forefront of an infrastructure plan saying, “drainage is a problem throughout the city, it’s a problem in Ward 4 because we have older neighborhoods.”

Delgado agrees about addressing infrastructure and making sure it benefits the people of Hattiesburg.

“I just went through an election where people were asking about these very things,” Delgado said. “So here we have an opportunity, and I have to make sure that I’m getting ahead of it so that the administration does not make a plan without me.”

In the work session, Mayor Toby Barker said council leaders should expect to have a meeting dedicated to discussing the federal relied funds in the coming months of June or July.

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