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More than a decade in the making: City activates new auxiliary waterline

Vicksburg’s new auxiliary waterline is operational.

“We cut it on today,” Public Works Director Garnet Van Norman told the Board of Mayor and Aldermen at its meeting Monday. He said the auxiliary line and the main waterline were connected at the intersection of Washington and Main streets just north of Rusty’s Riverfront Grill.

Van Norman’s announcement came as the board discussed a $174,561 change order on the project for materials to replace poor soil and pave a section of Washington Street. “This is the last change order on that project,” he said.

“We got it done,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “That is a game-changer. For the record, it would have eliminated the incident we had in 2017 with the water.”

During the 2017 spring flood, a valve on the main waterline that was at the time under 10 feet of water broke, forcing the city to hire a contractor to build a levee around the valve and drain the area to fix the leak.

The city shut down the waterline to prevent backflow, forcing the board to put the city under a boil water notice for three days while the valve was repaired.

Flaggs, Monday, called the waterline’s completion “a great improvement for the city.” The line’s completion finishes a project that began 11 years ago.

Discussion about an auxiliary waterline began in 2010 when the city’s main waterline 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 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 that included representatives from the city, the Corps of Engineers, the Vicksburg National Military Park and IMS. 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 millions of dollars over budget. The board in 2016 hired EJES Engineering of Jackson to replace IMS. EJES Engineering developed the new route down Washington Street.

Initially, due to limited funds, the city looked at splitting the project into two parts. But, when the city learned that more money was available for the project in January 2020, it moved ahead with the full project.

The board in January 2019 canceled that plan after receiving news that more money was available for the project.

The mayor on July 12, 2019, signed an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District for $4.5 million in 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 was $1.5 million.

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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