Utilities, paving top public works budget plan

Published 11:22 am Monday, August 10, 2015

Repairs at the city’s water and wastewater treatment plants totaling $3.5 million, $4 million for sewer assessments, and $3.56 million in paving top the list of items proposed for fiscal 2016 by the Vicksburg public works officials.

The items were discussed Tuesday at a budget hearing held by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. The fiscal year starts Oct. 1, and state law requires cities and counties to have their budgets approved by Sept. 15. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Aug. 27.

The public works budget is divided into categories: utilities and streets. The proposed $16.45 million utilities budget is funded by user and connection fees paid for water, sewer and gas service to businesses and homes. The $8.81 million streets budget is funded through the general fund, which is received primarily from sales and property taxes.

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Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said Friday he is satisfied with both budgets, adding the expenses are necessary, especially with the city’s aging infrastructure, which in many places is 100 years or older.

“It could have been a lot worse, but I believe we’re headed in the right direction in terms of trying to do overlay and replace our infrastructure.”

Public Works Director Garnet Van Norman said the major expenses in the utilities department involve replacing equipment on the clarifiers at the water treatment plant on Haining Road and at the wastewater treatment plant on Rifle Range Road.

The $2.15 million water treatment plant project involves replacing the mechanical equipment on one of the plant’s two reactor clarifiers that put lime in water to soften it.

“We did one; now we have to do the other one,” he said. “We have to rebuild it; put new equipment in it. Replace the mechanical equipment.”

The gearbox of one clarifier is cracked. Van Norman said.

He said the plant needs both clarifiers operating, adding without them, “We’re (operating) at half capacity and we couldn’t install any more (water) service.”

Work at the wastewater treatment plant totals $1.35 million to repair the plant’s primary clarifier, which is used in the process to separate solids at the wastewater treatment plant.

Van Norman said the city has a contract with JS Haren Co. of Athens, Tenn.

“They’re manufacturing the equipment right now, but we’re not going to be finished with it until next year’s budget,” he said. “They won’t start working on it until this winter.”

A $4 million item in the sewer mains division covers the $3.7 million Environmental Protection Agency-mandated sewer system assessment project plus some equipment for the sewer department, Van Norman said.

The sewer assessment project is part of a consent decree signed by the EPA and the city after an EPA survey determined the city allowed raw sewage to run into city streams and the Mississippi River over a five-year period. Under the agreement, the city must assess, evaluate, map and upgrade or replace one-tenth of its sewer system for 10 years.

The proposed $3.56 million for capital improvements in streets includes $1.3 million for the Wisconsin connector road between Wisconsin Avenue and North Frontage Road and $2 million for paving under the city’s $9.8 million bond issue, with the remainder left for equipment.

Flaggs said the connector road funds are a carryover from fiscal 2015. The road will link Wisconsin to the frontage road.

Flaggs was not sure when work will begin on the road, adding there is a problem with the road’s design where it is supposed to connect with the frontage road.

“The cost may creep up a bit in cost, depending on the design we end up compromising on,” he said.

Besides the utility work and street paving, other items in the proposed budget include:

• Traffic: $95,000 to repair a problem with sensors at some of the traffic lights that affect their timing. The city is looking to change to a new system.

• Right of way: $314,000 for a new street cleaner.

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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