Flaggs: New, auxiliary water line to be built by March 2018

Published 12:52 am Sunday, May 21, 2017

Construction on Vicksburg’s auxiliary waterline is expected to begin in July and completed by March 2018, Mayor George Flaggs said.

“It’s my understanding that the final design on the project will be completed by Friday, and then going out for bids will take 45 days,” he said. According to a schedule provided by project engineer EJES, the project will take six months to complete.

Information about the backup line comes as the city recovers from a water crisis caused by a broken valve on the city’s mainline in the flooded city well field, which forced officials to cut off all water service to the city for three days.

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“I think the preplanning of this couldn’t have come at a better time,” Flaggs said. “It’s just unfortunate that it has taken this long to get it out for bids for construction.”

The estimated cost to build the auxiliary line is $3.565 million, and is funded in part by a $2.45 million U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 592 grant with the city paying the balance, or about $1.15 million.

Discussion of an auxiliary waterline began in 2010 after a landslide at the construction of the Corps’ Jesse Brent Lower Mississippi River Museum and Interpretive Center threatened the city’s main waterline.

IMS Engineers of Jackson was hired to handle the water project in November 2010 during the administration of former Mayor Paul Winfield, and proposed a route that took the waterline from the water treatment plant on Haining Road, under North Washington Street, across the Vicksburg National Military Park, then down Fort Hill Drive to tie into an existing line at Jackson Street.

The city in 2015 received bids on the project from four companies, all exceeded the project’s estimated budget from more than $3 million to more than $5 million.

The highest of the four was $8.57 million from T.L. Wallace Construction of Columbia, with DirtWorks Inc. of Vicksburg coming in at $8.346 million. S.J. Louis Construction of Texas and Hemphill Construction of Florence had the lowest bids of $7.626 million and $7.329 million, respectively.

City officials believe the proposed route was one reason the bids were so high.

The board in 2015 fired IMS after paying the company $212,331.50 between Feb. 15, 2011, and Aug. 29, 2014, and in January 2016 signed a $193,589 contract with Dallas-based EJES, which has an office in Jackson, to review, re-examine and possibly redraw the plans in an attempt to keep the waterline project within budget.

Under the new route, Flaggs said, the auxiliary line will leave the water treatment plant and run parallel to the railroad tracks running in front of the plant to North Washington Street. It will go south on North Washington to Jackson Street, where it will connect with an existing 30-inch line.

“The other route was much more expensive, and in my opinion, unnecessary,” he said. “I think this is a good plan. We’ve moved from a 36-inch pipe to a 30-inch pipe, and I’m impressed with this company and the timetable. They can have it up in six months.”

He said there will be no more waterlines running through the well field.

“Based on what happened (with the flooding), I wouldn’t agree to anymore piping in the well field. It’s too cumbersome and it’s always going to be impacted by Mississippi River flooding. This (the auxiliary line route) will be above flood stage and run parallel with the railroad track, which is much more feasible, and start from outside of the water treatment plant.”

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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