County accepts grant, takes on bayous cleanup

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 16, 2009

After a year of hesitation, Warren County supervisors have accepted a grant the board sought and with it responsibility to maintain drainage improvements along three bayous inside Vicksburg.

The decision ends questions over whether a $3.9 million Katrina-related federal grant would go elsewhere and, separately, affect the county’s eligibility for future awards.

The money was allocated in April 2008 as part of a $5.48 billion Katrina recovery package awarded to Mississippi from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development via the Mississippi Development Authority.

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The purpose is to clear Glass, Hatcher and Stouts bayous, which drain much of the city, of vegetation and privately generated debris. Supervisors realized, only after applying, that rules governing the award spelled out conditions of long-term maintenance beyond the project’s completion, prompting an offer to the City of Vicksburg for it to administer the work.

Vicksburg formally turned down the county’s overtures to take over the project, which would have added a second disaster recovery-related project locally. Vicksburg’s $1.3 million portion of the Katrina block grants are aimed at a new fire station and other improvements at Vicksburg Municipal Airport.

Looming deadlines on the grant funds and recent requests from potential grant administrators moved the supervisors to act Monday. The request for the board to pass it came from Olie Elfer of Jimmy G. Gouras Urban Planning Consultants Inc., which assisted in the disaster grant applications locally.  

“That’s what they wanted,” Board President Richard George said after a resolution committing the county to maintain the project passed unanimously.

Construction bids specifics, yet to be spelled out, will determine how fast the full award is spent. As the city turned away from the bayou project, county officials sought to modify the scope of the project from cleaning every speck of debris to reinforcing the canal walls through traditional methods such as gabion baskets. The commitment says the Road Department will be responsible for maintenance of the drainage improvements once complete. The goal remains to avoid setting up a drainage control taxing district — which would add to property taxes for residents whose land abuts the bayous — and simply maintain it by controlling growth of grass and weeds, George said.

“We have no idea what it will cost, but (maintenance) shouldn’t be any more than just spraying,” George said.

The commitment spells out a minimum of $2,500 to be spent annually out of the general fund to finance maintenance, whatever shape that may take. Another part acknowledged failure of the county to maintain the improvements will affect future Community Development Block Grant funding.

“We had up to three years to use it,” District 2 Supervisor William Banks said. “If we’d have given that money back, we wouldn’t have been eligible for any other money.” A fourth location, a small stream near Spouts Spring Road in Kings, has been added to the overall plan, according to the resolution.

Monday’s action passed without the formal vote of District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon, the project’s lead supporter since the project’s early stages, who is in Biloxi this week for the 2009 Mississippi Association of Supervisors’ annual conference.


On the agenda

Meeting Monday, Warren County supervisors:

• Agreed to a request by county engineers to consider revisions to the subdivision ordinance. Recent stop-work orders on at least two planned residential developments prompted the drive to amend the regulations. County officials have strongly suggested barring the sale of lots before any plats are submitted and roads completed.

• Approved subcontractor requests for the E.W. Haining Road bridge replacement and the Eagle Lake Shore Road resurfacing project.

• Authorized up to $7,000 for participation in the Beaver Control Assistance Program.

• Approved 43 adjustments to the tax rolls, resulting in $331,565 being taken off the tax rolls, and six increases adding $90,738 to the rolls.

• Approved a $3,500 request for cash by Rayburn & Associates, consultant and administrator of the county’s participation in the 2008 Home Investment Partnerships Program.

• Approved drafting an interlocal agreement with the City of Vicksburg to allow up to $5,000 to help fund construction of a memorial at the Rose Garden on Monroe Street honoring military veterans who have received a Purple Heart. State law limits contributions from counties to defray costs of memorials only to those depicting veterans of World War I and World War II.


Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at