Archie, Graham question plans to use ARPA money on economic development, building rehab

District 2 Supervisor David Archie says he will sue the county if it attempts to give the...
District 2 Supervisor David Archie says he will sue the county if it attempts to give the downtown jail to Jackson.(WLBT)
Published: May. 17, 2022 at 6:19 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Two supervisors are taking to task their fellow Hinds County leaders on their plans for spending millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief dollars.

Monday, Supervisors David Archie and Robert Graham held a press conference to raise concerns about how three supervisors plan to spend American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds largely on economic development.

Archie and Graham, who have voted against those proposals, say the money would be better spent filling potholes and fighting crime.

“I don’t hear citizens speaking to us all over this county, nothing about economic development,” Archie said. “What they’re talking about is getting the crime under control, fixing the potholes, fixing the ditches, cleaning the streets, getting the trash off the road.”

Archie provided a breakdown of how the funds would be spent.

Among expenditures, $3.5 million would go to Hope Credit Union to help with business and housing assistance and $1 million to set up a new Hinds County “economic development hub.”

He said another $5 million would go toward renovating the former National Guard processing center, located in the 600 block of State Street.

A sheet provided by Archie showed that $3.5 million in ARPA funds would go to the building, while an agenda from the board’s April 18 meeting shows that $3 million would go into it.

“I want to have citizens of Hinds County to ride by there and look at it. Their proposal is to put $5 million in a $500,000 building... It makes zero sense when you can take $200 per square foot and build a 20,000-square foot building for $4 million,” he said. “So, what I believe (is) that there is a cookie jar out there and somebody’s got their hands in it.”

It was not known when the building was appraised.

Archie said he and Graham would be willing to fight the board’s plans in court.

Graham asked why the county needed to set up a new organization to handle economic development when the county already has one.

“We have an economic development division. They have not requested any money,” he said. “We don’t know where the money is going. We don’t know who’s going to get the money. We don’t know where they’re going to spend the money.”

“But we do know that if we repair roads and bridges, people will have an easier time driving and moving around the city of Jackson.”

In all, the county is expected to receive around $45 million in ARPA money, which will be paid to the county in two “tranches.” The county received its first tranche of more than $22 million last summer.

Archie said those funds have been expended, and that the spending on economic development would come from the second round of funding.

“You’re not going to have to worry about economic development if you can’t get there on the street where the economic development is taking place,” Graham said. “So, we need to make sure that we get real with what we’re doing.”

On March 10, the board approved spending $763,000 in ARPA dollars to repave 10 North Jackson roads at the behest of Graham. At recent meetings, it approved at least another $173,000 to pave additional North Jackson streets.

The county also gave $1 million in ARPA to the sheriff’s department to purchase new vehicles and new computers and to begin a college intern program.

Graham and Archie say more of that type of work needs to be done.

“We need to make sure that we pave roads, fix bridges, and we fight crime in the city of Jackson,” Graham said. “We need to get serious about crime. Here in Hinds County people are afraid. People are leaving. They’re leaving everywhere in the city of Jackson.”

So far this year, 51 homicides have been reported in the capital city, according to WLBT figures. (Jackson Police Department says there are 53 homicides but has not provided details on those.)

Both sets of figures put the city about on track with the number of homicides reported at the same time in 2021, a record year for murders in the capital city.

Meanwhile, Jackson and Hinds County have both reported declines in population. Between 2010 and 2021, Hinds County’s total number of residents fell from 245,285 to 227,679, according to Census Bureau figures. Jackson’s population slipped from 173,514 to 153,701.

“They’re going to continue to leave,” Graham said. “So, that’s the reason why crime has to be our number one priority.”

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