Water loss in pipe move to be brief

Published 12:10 pm Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The 10,000 customers of Vicksburg’s water utility could temporarily lose service in the coming weeks due to the rerouting of a 36-inch water main beneath Washington Street, according to a contract change OK’d by the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen Tuesday.

Also Tuesday, the board OK’d a contract for additional police patrols at four Vicksburg Housing Authority subdivisions; a summer work program for up to 50 area youths; and agreed to provide a local match for a $20,000 state allocation for maintenance of Beulah Cemetery.

While city officials had been informed Hemphill Construction would be able to reroute the water main without interrupting service, Public Works Director Bubba Rainer told the board Hemphill encountered some unanticipated obstructions when the project started Monday.

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“When we actually got into it yesterday and the contractor dug a little deeper… it looks like we are going to have to cut the water off,” said Rainer. “We’re going to do it in the middle of the night. Hopefully no one will even notice that we do it.”

Rainer said the city will give customers advanced notice of any break in water service, but cannot pinpoint any likely dates at this time. Hemphill has 30 working days to complete the project, and Rainer said the break in service likely would come near the end of the work.

“They said they can do this in four hours,” Rainer said. “If they go past that we may lose some pressure, and if that happens we may also have to issue a boil water notice. If everything goes well though, we won’t.”

When a water system loses pressure, backflow can cause contaminants to leach. Because of the potential, customers must be notified to purify any drinking water before consumption.

The pipe is a vital link in daily water service from the water treatment plant at Vicksburg Harbor. It has been temporarily stabilized since a March 26 land shift at Washington and Jackson streets, near the MV Mississippi IV, where U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ contractors had been working for months on a museum and interpretive center.

The Corps has agreed to pay for the $1.36 million project, which will include a new, 30-inch pipe being rerouted one block around the shift site via Main, Walnut and Jackson streets.

VPD/VHA contract

Four Vicksburg Housing Authority subdivisions will have police officers assigned exclusively each night — an arrangement OK’d by the mayor and aldermen Tuesday. The contract will net the Vicksburg Police Department $13,596.25 each month, or $163,155 per year.

“This is what I believe to be a win-win situation for everybody,” Lt. Davey Barnett told the board.

A one-year contract between the housing authority and police department calls for a uniformed officer will patrol Waltersville Estates, Rolling Acres, Urban Court and Valley Court subdivisions — 334 apartments and homes total — between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. The patrols will be in addition to regular police presence at all six VHA sites. Officers who sign up for the additional duty will be paid $29.25 per hour.

In presenting the contract to VHA commissioners last week, VHA Executive Director Dannie Walker said the presence should help curb loitering, break-ins and other criminal activity. The contract was unanimously approved.

The VHA has had a private security firm working for several years at Waltersville Estates and paid about $60,000 per year to staff a guard at the subdivision gates from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. That contract will end. No security is provided at any other VHA subdivisions.

An exit clause in the contract states either the VHA or VPD could terminate the deal with 30 days notice.

The VHA manages six subdivisions with 430 homes and apartments, rented to tenants on a sliding scale based on income. The majority of its operating budget comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Youth summer work program

While the number of teens to be paid is not determined, the mayor and aldermen Tuesday approved up to 50 hires for a youth summer work program. Applications will begin to be accepted today at the Human Resources Office, 1415 Walnut St., through June 4.

“Some of you will be outside, doing labor and working, like painting playground equipment, and some of you may be working in an administrative capacity,” said Mayor Paul Winfield at Tuesday’s meeting.

The students, ages 16 to 22, must prove enrollment in high school or college and must reside in Vicksburg or Warren County. They’ll work about 20 hours per week for six weeks beginning in July, and be paid $7.25 an hour.

South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman questioned whether the city had funds to hire 50 students. The city has 550 employees. Department heads were told to return to the board with recommendations on how many students they could take on.

“The number is probably going to be closer to 20 to 25, at the most,” Beauman said following the meeting “We’re not just going to be hiring people to hire people.”

Winfield said the workers will be selected via a lottery at the next scheduled board meeting, on June 7.

“I know that if this board authorizes us to do this we will have 200 to 300 applicants,” he said. “In order to do it fairly, I think the best way to do this is by a lottery.”

Beulah Cemetery

The 126-year-old Beulah Cemetery on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard will receive $20,000 for erosion control from the state this fall, following agreement by the mayor and aldermen Tuesday to provide a $5,000 local match.

“Much work has already been done at the cemetery by the Image Club at Vicksburg High School as well as by AmeriCorps workers,” said Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Bill Seratt, who presented the appropriation to the board.

Established by a fraternal organization in 1884, Beulah has approximately 5,500 gravesites and an unmeasurable wealth of local history, Seratt said.

“There is absolutely no doubt that Beulah Cemetery is the most incredible African-American landmark in the region,” he said. “I’m working as a liaison between the Beulah Cemetery Restoration Committee and the Mississippi Development Authority on this because this is a tourism bill, and I’m proud to stand here and ask for this because this is a site that needs to be honored for all time.”

Beulah Cemetery is specifically earmarked for $20,000 in House Bill 466, which passed in the most recent legislative session and makes a total of $16 million available for tourism development projects across the state. The local match can be provided with in-kind labor or materials. The money will become available this fall, Seratt said.

In April, Beulah Cemetery was officially designated as a Mississippi Landmark by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. It remains private property.