City seeks bids for depot improvements

Published 7:58 pm Friday, July 21, 2017

City officials are making another try at finding a contractor for the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad Depot stabilization and restoration project.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Friday authorized city clerk Walter Osborne to advertise for bids for the project to improve the 111-year-old depot.

The project is funded through a $537,475 federal Transportation Alternative Program grant administered by the Mississippi Department of Transportation. The money covers 80 percent of the project’s cost, or $484,538, with the city paying the remaining 20 percent, or $25,502.

“That’s pretty good; we’re excited about that,” said Dave Benway, museum director and curator. “Hopefully somebody will be within the bid limit and get the work done.”

The board’s decision marks the second time the project has gone out for bids. The board in March rejected bids from Paul Jackson and Son of Brookhaven and Fordice Construction. Paul Jackson bid $660,000, while Fordice Construction bid $704,137. Both bids were over the estimated $510,040 budget for the project.

Assistant public works director Jeff Richardson said the project architect revised the plans to eliminate masonry work on the building’s exterior and removed some smaller projects, like repainting a door to the building’s cellar. He said the revisions were done after discussions with Paul Jackson and Fordice representatives.

“The masonry was added on after the fact,” Richardson said. “We’re going back to the initial project.”

He said MDOT officials have approved the plan. The state’s approval was required as part of the grant agreement.

The initial plan for the repair project involved replacing ornamental woodwork on the building’s exterior, repairing the building’s 48 windows, painting the depot’s exterior, replacing its elevator, repairing the building’s cupola on the roof, and renovations to the building’s front door to make it handicap-accessible.

The depot’s elevator has been a problem since the building reopened in 2012, at times trapping people inside on the third floor, which once housed the Vicksburg Main Street offices and a conference room used by Main Street and the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. The elevator was shut down by state officials as a safety hazard.

Main Street and the VCVB, which rented space in the building, have since moved out because of concerns over flooding, and have relocated elsewhere in town.

The city bought the three-story depot in 2001 for $295,000.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation in 2007 awarded the city a $1.65 million grant to renovate the building, and in 2009 allocated $250,000 in stimulus funds for the project.

Work on the depot restoration began in 2010, but was halted in the spring of 2011 when the Mississippi River dumped 4 feet of water into the building as it reached record heights in Vicksburg, cresting on May 19 at 57.1, 14.1 feet above flood stage and nine-tenths of a foot above the Great Flood of 1927.

The depot became a national symbol for the flood in Vicksburg and the backdrop for media coverage during the disaster. The renovation work resumed in June 2011.

The flood forced the board in 2011 to approve two amendments to the original renovation contract with contractor Kenneth R. Thompson Jr. of Greenwood totaling $56,000 to repair damage caused by the flood that was not covered by Thompson’s insurance or under the original contract.

In November 2011, the board approved a $105,660 change order with Kenneth R. Thompson Jr. to build the Main Street offices on the south end of the third floor.

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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