Haining Road work hits snag, county says

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 12, 2014

An uneven process to finance improvements along the main access road into the Port of Vicksburg from a grant secured by Warren County in 2008 to clear city bayous continued this week with word the nearly $4 million in disaster aid has a year-end deadline for action.
Earlier this week, Warren County supervisors learned the Mississippi Development Authority has ended all extensions for the bayou effort, which the county began when it landed a Katrina-related disaster grant to clear debris along Glass, Stouts and Hatcher bayous. Riprap was placed along canal walls at Glass Bayou in 2010-11, but complex dealings to buy out private property along Stouts and Hatcher stalled the endeavor. In a letter to the county this past week, MDA officials said all work must wrap up by the end of the year, else the money wouldn’t be there for the port road work.
The next step? Another meeting, at an undetermined time, between supervisors, MDA and grant administrators.
“We’re still trying to find out what we can do,” Lauderdale said.
In March, supervisors voted to redirect leftover money in the grant fund to shoring up Haining Road, where subsurface erosion is a constant issue. This week, supervisors were advised the port work must wait for a letter from MDA stating the deadline so a formal request for the redirection can be crafted.
“Any money you’ve got left over, we could use it all out there,” County Engineer John McKee told supervisors. Lauderdale said the grant administrator, Gouras Urban Planning Consultants Inc., was expected to update supervisors “when we get together” on precisely how much money was available to roll over to port road improvements, pending, of course, MDA approval to do so.
In February, supervisors voted to stop eminent domain proceedings in the bayou project’s fifth phase, along Hatcher Bayou, when only a few residents in Greenbriar subdivision agreed to sign over land without payment. At its monthly board meeting Monday, the board went a step further and voted 3-2 to stop court action in what’s left of the fourth phase, also along Hatcher.
District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon, the project’s original and most ardent supporter, and Board President Bill Lauderdale voted against it. Selmon said he’s opposed to court action in land matters in county business, “except for the greater good.” The community “would be a better place for the whole” if the fourth phase was finished, he said.
McKee assured Selmon engineering and construction of either the fourth phase or the port road work could be done in seven months, with the rights-of-way issues being a deal-breaker for the bayous.
“The Haining Road one is the only one we could really do,” McKee said. “The county already owns the property — it’s what makes it doable.”
In 2012, the county matched a $1.5 million federal highway grant to rebuild the ridge on which Industrial Drive runs. The low-lying area below the road had sat in floodwater for weeks during the Mississippi River’s historic rise the previous year, then several layers of soil disappeared once water receded. Contract crews took about four months to complete the work.
Warren County was among 47 counties in a disaster zone declared in the aftermath of the 2005 hurricane where localities were eligible for aid.