City gets extra $3M for waterline project

Published 7:00 pm Monday, December 3, 2018

Congress has approved an extra $3 million for the city’s 592 project to install an auxiliary waterline for the city, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said.

Flaggs announced the extra appropriation before Monday’s meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

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The additional money increases the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ 592 grant for the project from $2.45 million to $5.45 million. The project’s estimated cost is about $5 million. The city’s share is 25 percent, according to papers signed with the Corps when the grant was awarded in 2010.

The mayor said the increased funding means the city will be able to cover building the entire project at one time instead of building it in phases.

“We had under contract about $2-something million to do only half of it, because we decided that we didn’t want to let a contract out without having money in the bank,” Flaggs said. “Now, because of the appropriation, we’re going to stop the bids and we’re going to redo the bids so we can do the full waterline project.”

He said the extra money for the project was the result of his trips to Washington, D.C., to meet with the state’s congressional delegation and federal officials.

“I just believe you have to have relationships with your federal and state delegations, if you want to be successful,” he said, adding he and other city officials will be traveling to Washington in February to meet with the state’s delegation.

“I believe it’s imperative you have a relationship with people in government,” he said.

Line much needed

Discussion of an auxiliary waterline began in 2010 after a landslide at the construction site of the Corps’ Jesse Brent Lower Mississippi River Museum and Interpretive Center on Washington Street threatened the city’s main waterline.

IMS Engineers of Jackson was hired to handle the waterline project in November 2010 during the administration of former Mayor Paul Winfield, and proposed a route that took the waterline from the water treatment plant on Haining Road, under North Washington Street, across the Vicksburg National Military Park, then down Fort Hill Drive to tie into the line at Jackson Street.

The city in 2015 received bids on the project from four companies. All exceeded the project’s estimated budget.

The highest of the four was $8.57 million from T.L. Wallace Construction of Columbia, with DirtWorks Inc. of Vicksburg coming in at $8.346 million. S.J. Louis Construction of Texas and Hemphill Construction of Florence had the lowest bids of $7.626 million and $7.329 million, respectively.

City officials believe the proposed route was one reason the bids were so high.

The board in 2015 fired IMS after paying the company $212,331.50 between Feb. 15, 2011, and Aug. 29, 2014, and in January 2016 signed a $193,589 contract with Dallas-based EJES, which has an office in Jackson, to review, re-examine and possibly redraw the plans in an attempt to keep the waterline project within budget.

The new route for the project takes it south along North Washington Street to tie in at Jackson Street.

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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