Aging infrastructure upgrades needed now rather than later

Published 7:56 pm Tuesday, October 16, 2018

In a 2012 The Mississippi Press article on Vicksburg’s aging infrastructure, North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield commented, “people would be amazed at what’s under their feet.”

City officials have known for years the city’s infrastructure is old and long overdue for improvement.

And if residents weren’t aware of it, the Oct. 4 discovery of broken storm drain and sewer lines under at the intersection of Washington and Crawford streets should be a wake-up call.

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In one sense, Mayor George Flaggs Jr.’s comments about that problem and several other infrastructure problems being the cost of the emerging growth and prosperity are correct.

“Downtown was never designed for the kind of loft apartments and the type of water flow and sewage flow that we are receiving because of the number of loft apartments,” he said, adding the city’s infrastructure downtown has not been upgraded to handle the increased use.

“You just have to wait until something happens and improve it as you go, because there was no way any administration would have been able to predict any of this. It’s one of those things; when you see growth in a community, just know that a cost of growth is associated later on. Especially when you’re dealing with infrastructure.”

The problem, however, is that previous administrations also played “wait and see” when it came to the city’s infrastructure, operating on a philosophy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Given the growth of downtown and the stress on the underground lines in that area, it would seem the board would follow the policy of being proactive and begin addressing the infrastructure problems downtown before it becomes a problem, perhaps in a way similar to the capital improvements bond issue it passed in 2015. The only difference is user fees instead of property and sales taxes would pay off the loan.

Our city’s downtown area is growing with commerce and people opting to live downtown to be closer to work and the restaurants and other attractions offered there. Wait and see shouldn’t be city policy. The board needs to attack this problem the same way it is attacking other issues in the city — aggressively and proactively.

Our downtown area has become a center of commerce and activity, and we can’t afford to let infrastructure problem slow its growth.