City seeks cash for sewer repairs

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 26, 2009

The city is taking steps to acquire $8 million in federal stimulus funds — $4 million of which would have to be paid back as a low interest loan — for major repairs to the city’s aging sewer system.

“Our system is in dire need of repairs and maintenance simply because of its age,” said Public Works Director Bubba Rainer. “These are old clay lines. They’re over 100 years old, and they’re very, very expensive to repair or replace. So, we’ve got to have some help or else you’ve got to raise sewer rates to pay for it.”

The stimulus funds the city is applying for are a portion of roughly $40 million the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality will distribute throughout the state for utility infrastructure repair. All the grants will essentially be loans, said Rainer, 50 percent of which are forgiven and the other half of which will have to be paid back at a low interest rate.

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On Friday, the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a change order to a contract with its architectural and engineering firm, Allen & Hoshall, for an assessment they’ve completed of the city’s sewer lines. Rainer said the study, which cost $140,000, was a necessary part of the application for the stimulus funds.

Identified in the study are two main lines the city would replace with the stimulus money: one that begins on Levee Street and one on Clark Street — which Rainer stressed has nothing to do with the closed bridge or slope failure near Clark Street.

“These are the larger diameter lines. We’ve got lines that are probably in as worse shape, but these are the main interceptors that are carrying the load and that’s where you want to start your rehab,” Rainer said.

The Levee Street intercepter line is fed by many of the downtown sewer lines, while the Clark Street line runs by the City Park, through Marcus Bottom and over to the Chambers Street area.

“When we get heavy rains, water gets sucked into the holes (in the sewer lines) and basically what ends up happening is we’re treating rain water that we shouldn’t have to be treating and it’s costing us more money,” South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman said of one of the problems of cracked sewer lines. “What we really want to do is seal these lines that run to the treatment plant.”

Rainer said the next step in the grant application process is to submit designs for the repair work to MDEQ, and work on those will begin soon.

“This is basically a first come, first serve kind of deal, so we obviously want to get our plans in as soon as possible,” he said, adding, “I have no idea” when the city will learn if it is awarded the grant.

In March, the city learned it will receive $947,635 in stimulus funding directed through the Mississippi Department of Transportation. The allocation earmarked three major resurfacing projects: Clay Street, from Cherry Street to Mission 66; Indiana Avenue, from South Frontage Road to the city limits; and Wisconsin Avenue, from Interstate 20 to Bazinsky Road.

“We should be advertising for bids on that work soon,” Rainer said.


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