Latimer residents speak out on Hwy 15 expansion

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - By Krystal Allan – bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Some Jackson County residents are heated up over Highway 15. The Mississippi Department of Transportation has four proposals on the table as part of the Highway 15 expansion project.

Residents in Jackson County's Latimer community met Monday night to make their voices heard about the proposed expansion project.  The Latimer Civic Association hosted a meeting at the community center off Daisy Vestry Road.

Residents came through the door signing petitions against the proposed Highway 15 expansion project.  They also came with concerns weighing on their minds.

"We really don't know what we can do with our properties as of now," said Latimer resident Kendall Cruthirds. "With the economy slow right now, they can't built until they know where the highway will go."

"We enjoy having our small community atmosphere," said resident Suzy Humphrey. "We don't want large businesses or highways in our area."

M-DOT officials say the project is far from set and is still in the environmental study phase.  There are four options on the table to essentially connect Highway 15 north to Highway 57 near Beaumont.

Residents who gathered say they're not pleased with any proposal running the highway through north Jackson County.  A year ago, Latimer residents rallied against a proposal to run Highway 15 through Latimer.  M-DOT ultimately rejected that proposal.

Supervisor Tommy Broadnax came under fire for his support of the project by way of a letter written by Latimer resident Sandra Allawine.  It was read in the meeting by Lori Ramsay Massey, also of Latimer.

It read in part, "As a voting citizen of Jackson County, I am disappointed in our elected official Tommy Broadnax who is not supporting the majority of his constituents."

Broadnax countered, "You need to hire you a lawyer; you need the sue board of supervisors; you need to sue the state of Mississippi and you need to sue the federal government if you want to stop progress. But, I noticed she [Allawine] hasn't done it yet."

And Broadnax was not alone in his support of the plan. One resident asked the crowd why Harrison County should get all the projects, leaving Jackson County without new roads and highways.

We talked to M-DOT District Engineer Kelly Castleberry who said they were contacted late last week about the meeting.  Castleberry said an M-DOT representative would have attended the meeting, but needed more notice due to previously scheduled engagements.

Castleberry said residents are welcome to stop by any of the department's planning offices or visit M-DOT's website to see the proposals for the Highway 15 project.

At the meeting, residents also discussed a plan to consolidate three fire departments in the area. Under the plan, the Fort Bayou, West Jackson and Latimer Fire departments would be consolidated to form the St. Martin Grading Fire District.  The goal, according to Fire Marshal Ray Watson, is to lower fire ratings which will ultimately lower insurance rates for residents in the area.

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