6 percent pay hikes approved for 5 bridge employees

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cost-of-living raises were approved for employees of the old U.S. 80 bridge despite economic pressures to the bridge’s financial picture.

Pay hikes totaled 6 percent, for an annual salary of $42,177 under the new pay scale.

Vicksburg Bridge Commission members had mulled the raise for weeks, eventually settling on an amount slightly more than estimates based on the Consumer Price Index.

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Five employees work on the bridge, performing maintenance work at heights more than 100 feet above the water’s surface. Commissioners took into account the unique job hazards in considering the size of the raise.

“They skywalk in baskets, trim trees. It’s considerably different from what the typical county employees do,” commissioner Tom Hill said.

Commission members are appointed by Warren County supervisors to manage the bridge, built privately but operated as a nonprofit business by the county for about 60 years.

The raise comes as the recession hampers rail freight nationwide, evident in rail traffic figures for December. Counts provided by Kansas City Southern reported 20,055 cars crossing during the month, the lowest monthly total since March 1999, bridge Superintendent Herman Smith said.

Overall freight volume hit the railroad industry hard in 2008. The bridge’s cash reserves, funded largely by tolls paid by KCS, were about $4.6 million as of Dec. 31, down from about $5.4 million 18 months ago. Payments on several construction projects on the span were made during December, most notably the first to Shreveport-based Shiloh Construction for work to stabilize pier 2, the first large pier from the Mississippi bank.

In other business, the commission expressed support for a Vicksburg-led effort to use the bridge as a location for surveillance cameras to monitor traffic near the Port of Vicksburg.

The city is seeking a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to place electronic eyes at strategic points along the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers. Approval will be known sometime after a Jan. 23 deadline, city Planning Department official for grants Marcia Weaver said when reached later.

Maintenance of the cameras once installed is undetermined, officials said.


Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at dbarrett@vicksburgpost.com.