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Crucial water line project awarded to Florence contractor

A Florence-based construction company will build the city’s auxiliary water line.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday accepted the bid of Hemphill Construction Co., which was the lowest of four bidders with a $5.030 million bid.

Its decision to award the job to Hemphill was based on the recommendation of Jackson-based EJES, the project engineers.

“I’m hoping in the very near future we start seeing some dirt being turned over,” North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield said after the board meeting. “It’s better late than never, but it’s here and it’s time to get this project taken care of. I’m happy.”

The auxiliary water line will start at the city’s water treatment center on Haining Road and go south, running parallel to Washington Street. It will connect to the existing water line at Washington Street in front of the Jesse L. Brent Lower Mississippi River Museum and Interpretive Center.

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said in July a crossing valve was installed on the city’s main water line when repairs were made in 2010 after the line was damaged during the construction of the museum.

“All we have to do is tie in to it,” he said.

Flaggs on July 12 signed an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District for $4.5 million in the Water Resources Development Act Section 592 infrastructure program grant money to help cover the cost of the project. The city’s share of the project cost is $1.5 million.

Discussion about an auxiliary waterline began in 2010 when the city’s main water line was damaged during excavation for the Corps’ Jesse Brent Lower River Museum and Interpretive Center.

In November 2010, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen hired IMS Engineers of Jackson to perform the engineering for the project. At that time, the city received a $2.45 million 592 grant and the project was estimated at $3.29 million, with the city’s share projected to be $841,821.

There was little action by city officials on the project after IMS’ hiring until November 2013, when Flaggs called a meeting of IMS representatives and city, Corps and National Military Park officials. By that time, the three-year delay had caused the project’s cost to nearly double.

The board later fired IMS after project bids came in an estimated $2 to $3 million over budget.

The board in 2016 hired EJES Engineering of Jackson to replace IMS.

EJES developed the new route down Washington Street, but because there were limited funds for the project, the board initially decided to split the project into two phases. The first phase connected part of the line to the water treatment plant.

The board in January canceled that plan after receiving news of the extra money.

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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