New work at Fisher Ferry ordered by Mississippi DEQ

Published 11:28 am Thursday, August 9, 2012

Vicksburg street department crews were working Wednesday to correct drainage and erosion problems on city land off Fisher Ferry Road formerly slated to be a recreation complex.

Vicksburg Mayor Paul Winfield said he is still looking for a buyer willing to develop the property and put it back on the tax rolls.

The work, including materials costing about $85,000, was ordered after an inspection by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. The project is expected to take about two weeks to complete, interim public works director Garnet Van Norman said.

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“We’re removing the concrete in the drainage chutes and replacing it with riprap and grout,” he said.

“This is something that would’ve been done eventually, even if we never received the order from DEQ,” he said, adding the problem is on the south side of the site, which had been prepared for two softball fields in 2009.

He said the DEQ inspector discovered the problems in May and notified the city by letter that repairs were required.

“This work is something that we should have been doing all along,” South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman said. “If we would have been out there maintaining it and growing grass, we wouldn’t be fooling with it now.”

The city bought the 200-acre property in 2003 for $325,000. It acquired a wetlands permit in 2009 when it began developing the site just north of St. Michael Catholic Church as a sports complex. It abandoned the project later that year after spending $2.7 million on dirt work.

“I think we should have already built some ballfields on it, personally,” said Beauman, who has said the city should either develop the property as a sports complex or sell it.

Van Norman said the city was required under a wetlands permit to periodically inspect the condition of the property’s drainage systems.

“Apparently that was never done,” he said. “After the city abandoned the project, we never went back in there.”

He said the drainage chutes originally installed on the property by the contractor doing the dirt work were lined with concrete, but runoff over the past three years had undercut the paving and washed the chutes out.

He said chutes would have been replaced with a more substantial system had the project continued.

“The way the project was planned, once the dirt work was done, the park would be finished in phases,” he said. “First, the ballfields would have been built, and then they would put in the permanent drainage as the other amenities were built.