CHARLESTON - Mississippi County commissioners will draft and send letters to both the U.S. Senate and House voicing their opposition to a provision in the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2003 which would establish commercialism pilot projects at Interstate highway rest areas.
Commissioners agreed during their regular meeting Thursday to oppose the provision as it would hurt Interstate interchange businesses, adversely affecting the county's tax base.
The letter will ask legislators to preserve the ban on Interstate rest area commercialization presently in place. United States Code prohibits such commercialization at Interstate rest areas built after Jan. 1, 1960.
Reading a passage from a letter draft addressed to Sen. "Kit" Bond and Sen. Harry Reid, ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Environment and Public Works, Commissioner Martin Lucas noted that "Businesses located at Interstate interchanges simply cannot compete with a business conveniently located on the shoulder of the highway."
He also read the letter's reference to the May 2003 University of Maryland study which found that counties with commercialized rest areas have 50 percent fewer truck stops, gas stations and restaurants at Interstate exits.
The nearest rest area is located near Marston on Interstate 55.
In other Mississippi County business:
* Commissioners reduced the Dorena-Hickman Ferry fare for motorcycles from $5 per crossing with no discount for round trips to $3 one way and $5 for a round trip.
Commissioners agreed that, compared with fares for other vehicles, the motorcycle fare was too high.
* "We've got a real, real bad thistle problem on (Ditch) 23 and Lateral 14," Commissioner Homer Oliver said. "This fall we need to address that."
Lucas added that there is also a water lily problem spreading in Lateral 3. "That thing is just solid," he remarked.
Oliver agreed the lilies are a big problem as they impede water flow through the ditch.
Lucas added they are lucky they don't have the fresh water kelp type plant like that damming up ditches near Matthews.
* Presiding Commissioner Jim Blumenberg said jail administrator Don Chance advised the Immigration and Naturalization Service has scheduled an inspection of the facilities Tuesday.
Chance also said that due to the INS re-arranging districts, the county will now be receiving INS prisoners from Bowling Green, Ky. "We're really going to have a full house for awhile," Blumenberg said.
Commissioners also discussed contacting Rep. Jo Ann Emerson's staff regarding holding INS juveniles at the county's juvenile detention center.
"If the federal government allows it, we're going to have to house some juveniles for INS," Blumenberg said.