JPPJ, Jonesboro Town Council move Sidewalk Project forward

Have you heard the one about a project involving the Town of Jonesboro, Jackson Parish Police Jury, civic agencies and local businesses moving forward quickly? Got to be a wild tale right? After all, experience has taught that nothing gets done fast when it involves government bodies and especially when a conglomerate of parties are involved. This is no joke or wild tale though. This is actually happening. 

What is being referred to is the Town of Jonesboro Sidewalk Project that wasn’t even a thought until just a couple of months ago. Already an estimate of what the rehabilitation / replacements of the sidewalks along both sides of Jimmie Davis Blvd will cost and the consensus approval to apply for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) grant that will be used to pay for the project has been completed and agreed upon. It is a good thing too as by the time that even anyone knew about the grant that was available time was already clicking and a deadline to apply loomed close. 

How it all began! Town of Jonesboro and Jackson Parish residents can credit Jackson Parish Library Jonesboro Branch Manager, Angela Walsworth, for getting things started and for seeing it through to it’s current point. While researching through possible grants available for the Library, Walsworth found hidden among a plethora of grants offered by the state one that is for downtown revitalization projects.

“Angela (Walsworth) called me to let me know that she had seen this and thought it was something that we should be interested in,” said Jackson Parish Police Juror Regina Rowe. “Even though it didn’t apply to what she was trying to do for the Library, she had enough interest and desire to help the town that she took it upon herself to learn more and basically has spearheaded this whole process. I think she deserves recognition for this and I know we as the Police Jury appreciate what she is doing. and has already done.”

Civic leaders take action! Through several calls, Walsworth and others promptly formed a civic committee that includes Jonesboro State Bank President Thurston Allen, Town of Jonesboro Mayor James “Spike” Harris and Rowe, representing the Police Jury.  In lightning speed a questionnaire was distributed to residents, civic groups, businesses, churches and schools where the public was asked where they thought the placement or improvement of sidewalks within the city limits of Jonesboro would best serve the public. This was submitted to the DOTD who replied that all the requirements to be allowed to apply for the roughly $900,000.00 grant available had been met.

City Government bodies step up! Next up was the process of having the grant formally applied for. This meant that the Town of Jonesboro would have to provide 5% of the roughly $900K grant amount ($45,000.00) as required by the DOTD as matching funds. If you are not familiar with state grants, submitting matching funds is a normal condition to even be considered for a grant and 5% is a very unusually low amount that normally has to be forwarded to the state. As an example, when the town of Jonesboro applied for LCDBG grants for water and sewage infrastructure projects it was required to submit 25% in matching funds. NOTE: If grant is not given the matching funds submitted are returned. 

For the money to be submitted it meant that the Board of Aldermen would have to approve a Resolution. Through the daily efforts of the Sidewalk Project Committee Jonesboro Mayor Harris and several council members got on board so that the Resolution approval was put on the agenda for the next meeting which was on Tuesday, March 14th. 

There was concern that possibly some may think that the project was trying to be pushed down the Board of Alderman’s throat without a thorough investigation or discussion being held. 

“I come before you tonight to let you know that we are not trying to jam this down your throats,” said Jonesboro State Bank President and Sidewalk Committee member Thurston Allen at the Board of Aldermen meeting on Monday. “It is just that if we are going to have a chance to get the grant money we have to act now as we are nearing the deadline to apply.” 

Instead the comment was met with enthusiasm and appreciation by the members of the Town Council and those in attendance. 

“I think this is a great example of what can happen when various governmental bodies and civic groups work together,” said Jonesboro Alderman James Ginn. “I applaud everyone involved for getting on the same page to make this happen in this amount of time. I would like to see this more often.”

Police Jury gets involved!  The Sidewalk Project Committee, several town council members and Mayor Harris began having conversations with various Police Jury members asking for their support in helping get Jonesboro approved for the grant. The thought process was that if the DOTD saw that the Police Jury was also involved it may help move Jonesboro up in the pecking order of which municipalities would be approved. There was also the matter of finding the $45,000.00 needed for the matching funds.  

This meant that even more quick work had to be done. As like required with the Town of Jonesboro, for the Jackson Parish Police Jury to get involved a formal approval to assist the town had to be voted on. The problem there though was that the JPPJ regularly meets on the third Tuesday each month, one week later than the Board of Aldermen and it needed to be approved before the Town Council voted.   

To the JPPJ’s credit, a special session was called for Monday, March 13th one day before the Town Council would meet. During the session JPPJ President Todd Culpepper agreed that the Police Jury being involved could help the grant be awarded to Jonesboro.

“I think that when DOTD Director Nunez sees that we are working with the town of Jonesboro to get this grant this would make him more inclined to put our joint effort up at the top of the list,” said Culpepper. “I know from experience of applying for grants over the years that when a town and parish both are included in an application that it gets higher placement.”

The discussion then turned to the JPPJ assisting Jonesboro with funds, which is how the item to be discussed in the special session was worded on the agenda. When the jurors learned that only $45,000.00 would be needed, that the money was going to be reimbursed and if the grant was not awarded that the state would return the money for matching funds within 30-45 days it basically became a “no brainer.”

“I think this is really a good deal that we need to take advantage of,” said Juror Amy Magee. “Anytime you can get grant money for only 5% in matching funds you need to do it.”   

The Police Jury formally agreed to assist the Town of Jonesboro with the $45,000.00. The next evening the Jonesboro Board of Aldermen agreed to adopt a Resolution that would allow for the application of the grant.

Two actions in two days by two separate governing bodies regarding the same thing. Sounds like a wild tale but it really has taken place. Congratulations! 


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