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Oxford Mayor to Take on MDOT

By Alyssa Schnugg

News editor


The University Avenue/Highway 7 intersection. File photo.

Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill is finished playing around with the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

On Tuesday during the Oxford Board of Aldermen meeting, Tannehill read a Memorandum of Understanding sent by MDOT in regard to reconstructing the University Avenue and Highway 7 interchange.

The agreement was drafted a few months ago and sent to MDOT, which made modifications and sent it back to the Board. The modifications were not acceptable to Tannehill and the Board.

Tannehill reviewed the MOA during the meeting, pointing out issues with the changes made by MDOT.

The Mississippi Legislature authorized $4 million in general obligation bonds for the project. The city would contribute $1 million. Lafayette County is expected to contribute $1 million as well. The city also received about $1 million from two appropriation bills.

“’The Commission is willing to contribute up to $1 million dollars for the cost of the project,’” Tannehill read and then added, “Well, how generous of them on their own road.”

The agreement goes on to state that the city, county and MDOT would equally split any expenses over $7,750,000.

The last estimate done on the project three years ago was $9 million.

“Construction costs have gone up 20 percent each year,” Tannehill said. “There is no way in the world Oxford taxpayers can have an open check to split that three ways. No thank you.”

The agreement says the city of Oxford would be responsible for any “errors and omissions of the plan design.”

“Why would the city be responsible for a plan design that MDOT will sign off on and give to us to build?” Tannehill questioned.

Tannehill also had a problem with the agreement stating that the city would maintain University Avenue east and west of the interchange, saying the intersection is owned by MDOT and should be maintained by MDOT.

“Every project we’ve done over the last six years, MDOT says the city should maintain what is owned by MDOT,” she said. “They need to take care of their roadways.”

Tannehill asked for the Board’s permission to negotiate the terms of the MOA with MDOT.

“We have generously used taxpayers’ money, our time and our political collateral to bring in $5 million for an MDOT project,” Tannehill said. “And they’re saying they’ll be donating $1 million.”

The board approved Tannehill’s request.

The University Avenue interchange is not the only area of Highway 7 local leaders are fighting about with MDOT.

Oxford and Lafayette County leaders sent a joint letter to the Mississippi Department of Transportation earlier this week requesting immediate funding to improve Highway 7 South after three people died in wrecks earlier this month.

The letter, signed by Tannehill, Lafayette County Supervisor Mike Roberts, Sen. Nicole Boyd and Rep. Clay Deweese, was sent to the executive director of MDOT Brad White and all three MDOT commissioners.

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