Rebuilding a crumbling infrastructure

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, July 30, 2014

As the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen meet with department heads this week to discuss the 2014-15 budget, the city’s infrastructure must be in the fore of the conversation.
Monday, the board met with utilities and public works departments, who laid out a list of items that tallied $3.118 million to assess, map and repair portions of the city’s 100-year-old sewer system.
While the plan is tentative for now, it is encouraging that the aging sewer system is getting some attention. However, the piecemeal plan to fix portions each year is not a long-term solution.
Moreover, the plans to repair the sewer system were not done voluntarily. It was forced under a consent decree the city signed with the Environmental Protection Agency after the EPA in June 2013 cited the city for allowing raw sewage to be dumped into the Mississippi River and other local streams during a five-year period.
The EPA also required the city to pass an ordinance toughening its regulation on cooking fat, oil and grease released into the system and levied a $17,000 fine.
The project will have to be completed by 2023.
What is the biggest issue? No one is entirely sure how extensive the damage is to the system.
“We really don’t know what we’re going to find once we start assessing the system,” said Garnet Van Norman, public works director for the city.
Indeed, when the city sent workers to check out a damaged pipe under Bowmar Avenue near Letitia Street in 2013, what they found was a nearly 12-foot chasm after water had swept away dirt from under the road.
The Board of Mayor and Alderman are certainly making the right moves within their financial limitations to fix the city’s century-old sewage and drainage systems. However, the scope of the needed repairs are so great that a bond issue will be required to raise the necessary funding to fix the sewage system.
When the city gained back its credit rating from Moody’s Credit Services after a one-year hiatus that was the crucial first step.
Now, as city crews head under our streets, Vicksburg has to be prepared to pay the costs of fixing sewer and drainage systems that were, for too long, neglected.

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