Downtown brick, parking projects delayed

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 11, 2002

[07/11/02]Plans to replace brick paving along downtown Washington Street are running about a month behind announced schedules, but should not interfere with Christmas shopping, officials said.

A separate project in the works for nearly two years to pave the parking area at Crawford and Washington streets has also been delayed by about two weeks because of contract problems. Work at the downtown parking lot began this week.

Both projects are being funded out of the $17.5 million bond issued by the city in November.

The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen received two bids Wednesday for the street work on Washington Street, which are expected to be awarded Monday. Work along the five blocks between Grove and Veto streets should begin in about a month, said James “Bubba” Rainer, head of the city’s public works division.

Rainer said the project announced in January moved along quickly, but could not be completed in the tight deadlines set by the city. Mayor Laurence Leyens had initially called for the work to begin now.

“It was a very complex task and there were a lot of elements that had to come together for this,” Rainer said.

Hemphill Construction of Jackson had the lowest bid, $2.9 million. Local contractor Lampkin Construction bid $3 million.

Plans include straightening the section of Washington Street between South and Clay streets, putting in parallel parking on both sides of the street and landscaping. The work that was supposed to start this month was scheduled to be finished before Thanksgiving, but is now expected to take longer.

To keep the project from interfering with downtown business during the holiday season, the contractor will pull off the site during the months of November and December, Rainer said.

Business during those two holiday months usually represents about 50 percent of retail sales for many merchants.

“We had that built into the contract because we realized we weren’t going to be able to meet that deadline,” Rainer said.

Plans for Washington Street were initially to resurface the roadway with asphalt, but were changed. New bricks are needed because those in place are no longer available and were not designed for vehicular traffic.

Washington Street was made one-way and bricks were put down during the 1970s federal Urban Renewal project.

Dirtworks Inc. of Vicksburg had been awarded the parking lot project in May, but Rainer said the work was behind schedule because of problems with the contract. He said it should be completed in about three months.

The project includes building a small stage in one corner of the lot for use during Riverfest, restrooms, landscaping and paving.

The lot was the site of the former Piazza-Botto building, which once housed the main offices of Merchants Bank. The building built in 1898 was torn down 1973.

It was purchased by the city from St. Paul Catholic Church for $65,000 two years ago as part of a settlement over the retaining wall that sits between the church and the Washington Street parking lot.