Deadline set for work on fire station, dirty bayous

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cleaning out a trio of drainage bayous and building a new Vicksburg fire station must start by Jan. 1 or funds will be diverted to other disaster grant-funded projects in Mississippi.

A letter from Gov. Haley Barbour set a deadline local officials had been seeking.

Click here to read the letter from Gov. Haley Barbour

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The fire station is under contract, but the bayou project has not been designed.

 Vicksburg and Warren County became eligible 18 months ago for $5.2 million in Community Development Block Grants to rebuild infrastructure damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

“With our nation’s economic future still uncertain and unpredictable, it is imperative Mississippians accelerate our remaining Katrina recovery projects,” read part of a letter sent to 34 cities and counties yet to begin construction in the GO Zone Community Revitalization block grant program aimed at the federally declared disaster area covering three states, including Warren and 48 other of Mississippi’s 82 counties.

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.

Warren County’s award on the bayou project was $3.9 million; Vicksburg’s for the fire station at Vicksburg Municipal Airport totaled $1.3 million. More than $2 billion from the state’s recovery funding has been allocated, Barbour’s letter said.

The task of removing stream-clogging vegetation and debris along Glass, Hatcher and Stouts bayous was accepted by Warren County in June. However, specifics on the project’s scope haven’t been nailed down. For a year, supervisors and city officials wavered on taking on the effort due to the logistics of identifying public and private land along the creeks, obtaining needed rights of way and maintenance costs after major clearing is done. In April, former Mayor Laurence Leyens spurned the county’s offer to take over the grant, instead focusing on a new airport fire station — for which a $1.2 million construction bid was awarded Sept. 10. Supervisors, who had asked for the money, committed to the project after potential grant administrators urged action so that future CDBGs wouldn’t be jeopardized.

The commitment spells out a minimum of $2,500 to be spent annually out of the general fund to finance maintenance by the Road Department, with a fourth location at Spouts Spring Road added. Supervisors have been against setting up a drainage control district along about 50 miles of property along each bayou, as it would carry additional property taxes for those whose land abuts the streams. Shoring up canal walls instead of labor-intensive cleaning has been supervisors’ favored option.

Small “pilot project”-type areas may be selected to test how the rest of the work should progress, Board President Richard George said.

“We can select some small area to see what kinds of problems we will encounter,” George said, acknowledging with other board members the challenges in obtaining right of way to parts of private property.

“You’d better find a place where you know the landowner,” District 4 Supervisor Bill Lauderdale said.

During an impromptu lunch in August between city and county elected officials and other staffers, support was voiced for the two local governments to cooperate on the bayou-cleaning project. Reached Monday, Winfield said the bayous need to be cleaned as a public health matter, the 90-day time frame on the money makes major city involvement “impossible,” Winfield said.

The city is open to helping county road crews maintain the work once complete as long as the city has a say-so in where it takes place, Winfield said

“We should be maintenancing that anyway,” Winfield said.

A $1,218,110 bid was awarded to Fordice Construction for the fire station, for which work is expected to begin in earnest within a month, Winfield said.

About 200 other Katrina recovery projects have yet to begin. Another 154 have begun construction and 16 completed.

Another project funded with Katrina grants is replacement of the overpass leading into the E.W. Haining Industrial Center and Port of Vicksburg.


Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at