Wastewater treatment plant to be privatized?

Published 6:37 pm Thursday, November 9, 2017

City officials are considering privatizing the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Thursday approved a contract with Trilogy Engineering Services of Jackson to prepare a request for proposals to operate and manage the wastewater treatment plant on Rifle Range Road. Trilogy is the same company the board hired to prepare a request for proposals to operate and manage the city’s water treatment plant on Haining Road.

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Mayor George Flaggs Jr. appointed a committee of city attorney Nancy Thomas, public works director Garnet Van Norman, accounting director Doug Whittington, city clerk Walter Osborne, assistant public works director Jeff Richardson, human resources director Ann Bradley and wastewater treatment plant supervisor Mark Engdahl to work with Trilogy representatives to review the proposals.

“We’re going to look at whether it’s feasible to contract out the operation of the wastewater treatment plant,” Flaggs said. “We believe the time has come to look at it for the better good of the plant operations and its employees, and with the (Environmental Protection Agency) consent decree, we just think that it’s better we outsource this and work from that respect.”

He said he has been receiving calls from companies about privatizing the plant, adding “I’m directing everybody who calls me to call this committee.”

The decision to privatize the plant comes as the city examines its utility rate structure to cover the cost of providing water and sewer service and maintaining the systems. The board in July hired the engineering firm of Allen & Hoshall of Jackson to perform a rate study, and Houston, Texas-based   Water Company of America to perform an audit of the system to find users who aren’t paying their fair share for what they use.

“We have come to realize that we are going in debt for what we pay to service water and sewage in this city,” Flaggs said. “It’s costing us more to provide the service.”

The wastewater treatment plant went on line in 1973. In the past year, it has had two major problems. A clarifier at the plant was damaged when it popped out of the ground, forcing the city to spend $1.3 million to replace it. In April, heavy rains caused to nearby creeks to swell and flood the plant, putting 2 feet of water in the buildings and damaging motors in the plant’s power 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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