Sandbags to be placed to fight Washington Street flooding

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 18, 2003

[7/18/03]Sandbags will be piled up along the northwest corner of China and Washington streets today as a temporary solution to keep water from eroding the ground from the buildings in the 1100 block of Washington Street.

Bubba Rainer, the City of Vicksburg’s director of public works, said the sandbags would be used until new drainage grates can be installed downtown.

“We’ll order (the storm grate) probably this afternoon,” Rainer said Thursday after a closed meeting with city Attorney Nancy Thomas, city engineers, a downtown restaurant owner, a building owner and the construction contractor for the $5.6 million urban renewal project.

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The Biscuit Company Cafe, 1100 Washington St., was forced out-of-business after water, mud and possibly sewage seeped through the kitchen walls and light fixtures during a July 3 rain. Attorneys for the restaurant and the building owners have threatened lawsuits unless the problem was fixed.

City officials said Tuesday a new grate, costing about $250, would be tried to drain the water on Washington Street, which slopes downhill from south to north.

The grate will have blades that stick up, catching more water.

Vicksburg Mayor Laurence Leyens has said Washington Street “has always been a river of water.”

Rainer said city officials couldn’t comment further because of possible litigation against the city.

S.J. “Skippy” Tuminello, owner of The Biscuit Company building, said the city showed it was trying to help fix the problem that has been affecting his property that began with the downtown construction project, involving old bricks being removed and new ones placed along Washington.

He said rainwater bypasses the current drains and runs behind the buildings in the 1100 block, causing erosion along the ground near the buildings.

Vicksburg Attorney Lee Thames, representing Tuminello, said everyone involved is working together for a permanent solution to the downtown water problem.

“We’re not trying to work against (the city),” said Thames, leaving Thursday’s meeting. “We’re not making threats or anything.”

Les Pearman, who attended the meeting in place of his wife, TheBiscuit Company owner, said the meeting didn’t prove helpful in finding out how the restaurant can be opened for business again.

“I didn’t see a whole lot happening,” Pearman said. “And it didn’t have anything to do with us.”

Thames said he would like to settle everything out of court, but would sue the city, its engineers and contractors for structural damage to the building and other problems if an agreement couldn’t be reached.

Tim Temple, project manager for Hemphill Construction, the Florence-based contractor, said the city and its engineers are looking into the water problems, but construction will move ahead as planned.

Leyens said if the new water grates work, more will be installed along Washington Street.