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City seeks assistance from county to cover Kemp Bottom project shortfall

City officials are asking Warren County Supervisors for help in replacing the Kemp Bottom Road bridge.

The original bridge spanning Hennessey Bayou collapsed in July 2017. Early this month, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen awarded the project to replace it to T.L. Wallace Construction of Columbia, which bid $3.45 million, the lowest of three bids submitted on the project.

But Wallace’s bid was $216,818 more than the project’s estimated $3.21 million and the city is asking the supervisors to make up the difference from the county’s State Aid Road and Bridge Fund, which is money set aside for work on state aid roads and bridges in the county.

The fund presently has $402,226. It accrues, or increases, $5,042 per month.

Warren County Engineer Keith O’Keefe told the supervisors at a Monday work session that State Aid officials have said the county can legally transfer the state aid money to the city because the money for replacing the bridge comes from the state emergency road and bridge fund.

The supervisors are expected to vote on a resolution to transfer the money when it meets Monday, but one supervisor voiced opposition to the request. 

“I know someone from the city had to contact him (O’Keefe) to find out about our money, find out what we have,” District 2 Supervisor William Banks said. “My understanding is that the city had this money sometime back for Kemp Bottom Road and they used it for something else.

“I’m pretty sure that’s what happened, and now they want to come to us,” he said. “My vote is no.”

Board President Dr. Jeff Holland said he met with City Attorney Nancy Thomas about the additional money. Holland said the area accessed by Kemp Bottom Road “is one of the prime areas of economic development for the whole county.”

Banks said he wasn’t interested. “I’m through with it; I’m done,” he said.

The Mississippi Transportation Commission in March 2019 released $3.73 million in emergency road and bridge funds to the city to replace the bridge, which is the only direct access to Entergy’s Baxter Wilson power plant and to the property that surrounds it.

The money was expected to pay for the design and construction of a new bridge and stabilize the erosion problem on Hennessey Bayou that caused the previous bridge to collapse in 2017.

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said the state money has been kept in an escrow account. He said state law prohibits the city from spending it on anything else.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen in April received a $2.238 million National Resource Conservation Service grant to help pay for repairing erosion damage caused by the 2011 Mississippi River flood and stabilize the bank. The city’s share of the project was $678,400.

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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