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City approves six water wells; cost $2.7 million

[5/12/04]Six new water wells for the City of Vicksburg will provide a steady supply for the next 50 years, said officials who approved seeking bids Tuesday.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen will spend $2.7 million to drill and equip wells off Long Lake Road in Kings. The money is from federal and local sources.

The city secured the federal grant through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2003 after a community on the Gulf Coast failed to act on the project for which the money initially had been earmarked. Lamar Heffner, superintendent of the city’s water plant, said the new wells will allow the city to use each well less, making them last longer.

“We’re just wanting to stay ahead of the game,” Heffner said.

Today, the city has 11 wells in the same area near E.W. Haining Road. They produce about 8 million gallons of water daily. Those wells aren’t working at capacity, but Heffner said that at their current rate, they will only last about 30 years.

The wells tap the same aquifer, but must be replaced as they silt in through the years.

He said work on the new wells could begin by the fall and will take about a year to finish.

City Planner Wayne Mansfield said the city is also seeking a Community Development Block Grant from the state to cover the city’s share of the project, about $680,000. He said an application has been submitted to the Mississippi Development Authority and that they are hopeful.

“It’s just a matter of timing,” Mansfield said.

He said money is available in the budget to cover that amount if the grant is not approved or to cover the city’s share until the grant is awarded.

Mayor Laurence Leyens is also pitching an idea to area water districts outside the city’s limits to consolidate countywide water services. He said districts like the Fisher Ferry Water District are investing millions in upgrading their facilities, but could save the money by joining with the city.

“Why put good money into those districts and get a poorer quality product?” Leyens said.

One reason could be because the city charges higher rates to customers outside the municipal limits, but Leyens said there is no rational for that and that the city may look at reducing that rate.

Warren County District 5 Supervisor Richard George, whose district is partially served by the private Fisher Ferry Water District, said customers of those outlying districts also enjoy that autonomy of having their own water services.

“It’s people looking out for their own interests instead of looking to government,” George said.

Leyens, who has promoted private solutions instead of government involvement throughout his three years in office, said he understood the idea of people wanting that independence, but said both city taxpayers and residents outside the municipality could benefit from combined services.