City officials approve application for loan to improve sewer system

Published 7:11 pm Thursday, May 24, 2018

City officials are hoping Vicksburg is one of the communities qualifying for a low-interest state loan to repair and upgrade its sewer system.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday approved an application to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality seeking priority ranking for a $27.76 million water pollution control revolving fund loan that is expected to be used over time to repair and upgrade the city’s 110-year-old sewer system.

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The board is under an Environmental Protection Agency consent decree to assess, map, repair and upgrade the city’s 110-year-old sewer system over 10 years.

City attorney Nancy Thomas said the application for ranking is one of the steps in the loan application process.

“This is an application to get on the list for funding,” she said. “It holds your place and lets them (DEQ) know you’re going to apply.”

Thomas said the city has performed a facilities study on the system, and is expected to hold a public hearing on the study in July. The board will submit its application for the loan to DEQ after the hearing.

“That $27 million is for that entire project for the duration,” she said, adding that while the application puts the project time as seven years, it could take longer to complete.

“And until you bid it out, you really won’t know what the cost will be,” she said.

“It’s not a line of credit, but that’s how we’re trying to approach it,” city accounting director Doug Whittington said. “We’re hoping to get a larger amount and draw off it whenever we see how much a particular year is going to cost us to assess and repair.”

He said the initial estimate on the project cost of $3 million was based on the experience of Memphis, Tennessee, which was undergoing the same work.

“This was an estimate, because you never know what’s under our streets, and we’ve already done a year and a half, maybe even two. That’s why that big number.”

The city during the administration of Mayor Paul Winfield signed the consent decree in 2013 after an EPA study indicated raw sewage was running off into local streams and the Mississippi River. Besides agreeing to improve the sewer system, the city also paid a $17,000 fine.

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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