Public price minimal’ for city, county

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 8, 2004

Members of the Sewer and Water Department work to repair a water line on Washington Street Wednesday after a leak seeped into the sewer line Wednesday. Washington was partially blocked, and traffic was detoured between Polk and Martin streets. (Meredith Spemcer The Vicksburg Post)

[7/8/04]Recent storms have knocked out power to nearly half the county, ripped up trees with roots still intact and punched holes through roofs of homes across the community, but overall, officials say, cleanup has gone smoothly and at minimal public cost.

Vicksburg and Warren County officials estimate the severe weather added about $18,000 to normal expenses. Most of that money was to pay overtime to bring in employees to cut up trees and clear debris off public streets.

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“It’s not a big cost, except we loose time on other projects,” said James “Bubba” Rainer, head of the city’s public works division.

L.W. “Bump” Callaway, director of Warren County Emergency Management, did not have exact figures on the number of homes damaged since the storm of June 27, the first of three strong storms. He did say it wasn’t enough to qualify for emergency assistance from state or federal sources. The main reason is because damage relief is based on damage to uninsured properties and most of the local damage was insured, he said.

Homes across the county reported minor damage and some had major roof damage. The biggest single cost was at Warren Central High School, where a portion of the roof was ripped off.

The estimated cost of the repairs to the school was about $750,000.

“The damage was very bad for those who were immediately affected, but community wide it was pretty insignificant,” Callaway said.

No injuries have been reported in any of the weather-related damage.

Richard Winans, road manager for Warren County, said he did not have the exact costs of overtime and equipment, but estimated the county’s cleanup at about $10,000.

“Of course, that takes us out of our normal routine and that’s going to put us behind schedule about three to four weeks,” Winans said.

Rainer said the only extra expense to the city was 500 hours of overtime, or about $8,000, and paying contractors to cut some bigger trees off the right-of-way. He said that type of expense is figured into the public works department’s budget each year.

He said the city saved money on the cleanup because of a contract with Waste Management that makes tree limbs and other yard debris on streets part of the garbage-collection contract.

“That would have been a cost associated with the storm,” Rainer said. “Now, Waste Management absorbs that cost.”

About 100 trees in the city and about the same number outside the municipal limits have fallen over the past two weeks. Several of those took out power lines across the county.

Although not directly connected with any of the recent storms, a leaking water main line on Washington Street may have been exacerbated by the record rainfall last month. City crews shut down Washington Street between Polk and Smedes streets Wednesday morning to begin repairs. City Engineer Garnet Van Norman said the three blocks could be closed until the end of the week.

“We don’t know yet,” Van Norman said. “We’re still in the process of digging it up.”

Another water leak on Second Street may have also been brought to the surface by the recent weather. There, leaking water along with heavy rains have eroded dirt under the roadway, creating two large potholes in the street.