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Projects aided by federal money

Thursday, February 9, 2006

SIKESTON -- Some area businesses now have the means to make some much-needed improvements, thanks to federal funds recently announced by the Delta Regional Authority.

Among the slate of local improvement projects for Southeast Missouri are renovations at Missouri Delta Medical Center in Sikeston and construction at the New Madrid County Port Authority and Southeast Missouri Port Authority in Scott City.

Missouri Delta Medical Center will receive $185,000 for part of the architectural fees, designs and drawings to completely renovate medical and surgical floors, 2-F and 3-F, which were part of the hospital originally constructed in 1967.

The funds will also contribute to the renovation of 3-H, which is currently a storage unit located above the obstetrics area. It will be renovated as an outpatient surgery area with medical and surgical beds, said Sharon Urhahn, MDMC marketing director.

"We're very grateful we're receiving this grant," said Urhahn. "We want to continue to modernize our facility."

And with the hospital being such an important economic impact on the area, MDMC wants to continue providing quality care, Urhahn said.

"Part of the reason we received this grant is because we're such a big part of the city," Urhahn said. "We have a staff of over 800 employees, a payroll of $27 million and an annual budget of $50 million -- and we spend a lot money in the community."

Plans are already moving along, Urhahn noted, adding the contract has been signed with the architects.

"The planning process with the architects is starting, and it will be about eight months before the plans are ready. Construction will begin a year from that," Urhahn said.

In addition to MDMC, the New Madrid County Port Authority received $100,000 for a water, sewer some rail extension on the north side of the Slackwater Harbor site.

"We've already got water and sewage on the south side of the harbor," said Timmie Lynn Hunter, executive director of New Madrid County Port Authority. The New Madrid County Port Authority will match the federal grant to a state grant from the Missouri Department of Transportation and a Community Development Block Grant, Hunter said.

"We were surprised (to receive the grant) because there was such a big group of people needing the funds and a small amount available and we were pleased to get the grant," Hunter said.

Over the years the DRA has, in some instances, been able to come through with grants when nothing else was available, Hunter said.

For example, when a road needed repair to the south side of the harbor, where tenant Riceland Foods Inc. is located, DAR stepped in to provide funding to fix the road. By doing so, it prevented the biggest purchaser of rice, Anheuser Busch, from doing business elsewhere.

"These grants come through at just a wonderful time for us," Hunter said. About $75,000 was awarded to the Southeast Missouri Regional Port in Scott City for grading, paving and engineering improvements.

"It's good news for us," said Dan Overbey, executive director of the SEMO Regional Port. "What it will do is help us connect Rushing Road, which is a concrete street in front of the dock, to down to the dock itself."

In 1994, the end of the dock next to the barges was paved, Overbey noted. "So this will let us pave a good roadway between the two," Overbey said. "Right now it's gravel and gets dusty in the summer and muddy after rain or snow. But we've lived with it."

The DRA grant ties in with the Port's existing corn mill project, which is slated to open this fall, Overbey said.

"We're working on $750,000 in improvements related to bigger street paving and railroad track construction," Overbey said. "This DRA grant fits in with that and this was work related to their project."

The paving project could take place this spring or summer, Overbey estimated.

"I very much appreciate the DRA's interest and expertise as we identify opportunities to invest in rural infrastructure, better health care facilities, and business district improvements that will help our region grow," said Eighth District U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, who announced the projects with DRA.

Other projects in the Eighth District include $41,695 for a business incubator project at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau; $19,000 to evaluate the sanitary sewer system treatment plant of Clarkton in Dunklin County for compliance with EPA standards; and $100,000 for road improvements to Brooks Lane and Old Highway 142 in Ripley County, improving access to the Hood Industrial Park.