Latimer unified against possible highway expansion route

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The Mississippi Department of Transportation greeted a large crowd Tuesday night, at the second South Mississippi community meeting of the week.  The community meeting sweep is part of a study of three different possible routes for a Highway 15 expansion.  One of those routes, Route C, goes through Latimer.

As Latimer citizens looked through maps of three possible routes for a new Highway 15 Tuesday night, they saw homes of friends and family that could be in jeopardy if Route C is chosen.

"You may not be impacted directly, but your daughter or your son, or a friend or a family member who's moved to the community would be greatly impacted," said Ray Ramsay who lives in Latimer.  He said his home wouldn't be directly affected, but several of his friends and extended family would have to move if MDOT adopts Route C for the project.

"One of the houses in the route, the lady has lived there for the last 80 years," said Latimer resident James Ralph Cruthirds.  "She would have to move out with this route."

Route C would start in D'Iberville and cut through Latimer, then connect with Highway 57 on its way to Beaumont.  Some Latimer residents have organized against Route C, and they're speaking out against it.

They've placed signs in front of homes that could be affected, acquired almost 1,000 signatures on a petition against Route C, and even posted maps in a local store.  Tuesday's forum was their first official chance to share their thoughts with MDOT.

"Latimer appears to be a tight knit community and they speak with a unified voice. And I think they've been very effective in communicating what their concerns are to us," said Steve Twedt, MDOT District Engineer.  "We've had some really good feedback from the Latimer community. And we've had a really good turnout for this meeting, and that's what we need.  I mean, we really need to hear from the people so that we can find out what their concerns are and get some input on the route selection."

One of those who would be impacted is Jackson County's District 4 Supervisor, Tommy Brodnax.  A small piece of his property could be taken if Route C is chosen.  Brodnax said he would prefer for Highway 15 to remain where it is today.

"I'd like to see it in its present place," Brodnax said.  "Where it is now, I think that would be the most sensible thing to do."

Brodnax said he will do everything he can to help the people of Latimer if Route C is chosen, but he's not raising his voice just yet.

"It's just a study right now," Brodnax said.  "It's in the study stages and once it gets completed, when they select a route, that's when we'll get serious about what's going on."

Most of the Latimer residents who attended let MDOT know they're already serious.

"I think it's a pretty clear message here in Latimer," Twedt said.

Twedt said all the routes MDOT is studying would cause some people to lose their houses.  He said the goal of the study is to find the route that would have the smallest impact on people and the environment.

"It's not about a matter of whether or not they want a highway close to their community," Twedt said.  "Its more about how to locate that transportation corridor where it's going to have the least amount of impact."

Another meeting in Wiggins will be held Wednesday night.  MDOT hopes plenty of people will join them to voice their concerns, ask questions and weigh in.

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