• 68°

Mayor: Spend carefully after emergency

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. wants city officials to hold off spending money until the city gets the bills for repairing a leak in the 36-inch main waterline that left the city without water.

Flaggs Thursday recommended the Board of Mayor and Aldermen put a freeze on new expenses until the bills come in and officials get an idea of how repairs will affect the budget.

“I don’t know, and I don’t have a clue how much that outage is going to cost us,” he said at the start of the board’s Thursday meeting.

“All I know is that it was around the clock and we did everything and all we could do. I’ve asked for assistance, and all I know is MEMA (the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency) does not reimburse for infrastructure disaster.”

A faulty valve in the underground line in the city’s well field broke May 17, leaving the city dry for three days. Because the line was submerged under about 10 feet of backflow flooding from the Mississippi River, four contractors worked day and night to build a cofferdam to back out the water and fix the line.

The work was completed in three days, and water service was restored May 19, but the city was under a boil water notice until Wednesday.

Purchasing agent Ann Grimshel said she expected to start receiving bills for the work next week. In the same meeting, the board authorized grants administrator Marcia Weaver to apply for emergency assistance from the Delta Regional Authority.

“Unless it’s an emergency, we will not budget new projects,” Flaggs said after the meeting. “I just think it makes no sense to budget new projects when we don’t know what it’s going to cost us for this water outage.”

He has also asked the city’s budget committee to examine where the city’s revenues are in relation to budget projections.

“This project was no where near budgeted for, and I’m afraid what it will cost, but we had to do it; it was necessary. If you have a $300,000 to a half-million dollar project that you have to pay for within a fiscal year — that you didn’t budget for — it’s going to have a strain on your budget.

“I’m just preparing the division heads and the board members to be prepared for a cost that you didn’t budget,” Flaggs said.

And while dipping into the city’s $3 million reserve fund is an option, he wants to try and pay for the repairs out of the budget. The second option, he said, is to use money from the city’s $9.2 million capital improvements bond issue.

“You shouldn’t just go to the rainy day fund because it’s there,” Flaggs said. “The rainy day fund is to protect your other funds. You’re supposed to protect the rainy day fund. If we have to go there, yes.

“I’ve asked (accounting director) Doug (Whittington) to meet and tell me where all the dollars are, but at the same time, it’s incumbent on us (the board) to make certain we’re prudent in our spending until we figure out how much it’s going to cost us. I’m just being fiscally responsible,” he said.

“My job is to protect the taxpayers’ dollar and at the same time operate the city government.”

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.

email author More by John