Engineers a no-show for waterline meeting

Published 1:04 pm Friday, March 28, 2014

A meeting to discuss the proposed backup waterline for Vicksburg was cancelled Thursday after the engineering company hired to handle the project failed to show up.

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said Jackson-based IMS Engineers told him they had not been contacted about the meeting when his office called to ask why the company’s representatives failed to attend.

“I told them they were notified 45 days ago,” he said. “I also told them that we were going to put them on a schedule (to complete the project) and they would be paid according to how well they kept to the schedule.”

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Attempts to contact IMS vice president Tommy Avant about the company’s absence were unsuccessful Thursday.

Thursday’s meeting was scheduled after a Jan. 31 meeting between city officials, IMS representatives and representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Vicksburg National Military Park.

City officials propose to install a 30-inch auxiliary waterline to provide water to the city’s estimated 10,000 customers if something happens to the city’s 36-inch main water line that runs along Washington Street.

The line would start at the water treatment plant at Haining Road, go north along North Washington Street to a point south of Vicksburg National Cemetery, where it will cross park property to Fort Hill Drive and then to Cherry Street, where it would connect with an existing city line on Jackson Street.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen in February signed an interlocal agreement with the Warren County Board of Supervisors to take over maintenance and repair of Fort Hill, deeded to the county by the National Park Service in 1936.

The $3.2 million water project is funded in part by a $2.45 million U.S. Army Corps of Engineers grant called Section 592. The grant covers 75 percent of the project cost with the city paying the remaining 25 percent, or $841,821.

Plans for the project began in 2010 after a sudden shift in the soil on Washington Street during construction of the Corps’ Lower Mississippi River Museum and Interpretive Center threatened the city’s main 36-inch water line. The line was later relocated.

Thursday’s meeting was expected to discuss an update on resolving a wetlands issue at the point where the waterline would enter the park, and traffic issues affecting the park during the waterline’s construction.

As it enters the park, the line would cross the drainage area for Mint Bayou, which flows through the park, creating a wetlands issue that was not addressed in the Corps’ environmental assessment of the project. Laying the waterline along Fort Hill Drive would force local traffic to detour through the park.

Unless the wetlands and traffic issues are resolved, Virginia DuBowy, natural resources program manager for VNMP, said in January, the park will not issue the permits.

In November 2010, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen hired IMS to perform the engineering for the auxiliary waterline project. There had been little action by city officials on the project after IMS’ hiring until November 2013, when Flaggs called a meeting of IMS representatives, city officials, and Corps and National Military Park officials.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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