SURRATT: Drainage on Pemberton Square Boulevard should make city examine building codes

Published 4:00 am Friday, April 8, 2022

Pemberton Square Boulevard, I believe I can say without fear of contradiction, is probably one of the busiest streets in Vicksburg.

There are shopping centers with a big box grocery, a major retail outlet, small stores, a restaurant and fast-food stores all congregated in a rather tight area from the street’s intersection with Halls Ferry Road. Pretty much at any time of the day, you can travel from Halls Ferry Road to U.S. 61 South and find yourself in heavy traffic. When the city gets heavy rain, you may end up swimming to get to your destination.

And trying to make a left-hand turn from any place on Pemberton is a challenge that takes nerves of steel, quick thinking and a car that can go from 0 to 60 in 2 seconds.

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So then tell me why, with the congestion and an almost 40-year drainage problem would someone want to build on Pemberton? I asked that same question several years ago when the Dollar General on Pemberton was built near the intersection of Halls Ferry and Pemberton Square Boulevard where traffic builds up at the light and people must, to borrow from Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Be dependent on the kindness of strangers” to get out of the parking lot.

All this came the other day as I was stuck in traffic on Pemberton Square Boulevard dealing with drivers slamming on brakes and then putting on their turn signals to turn, trying to beat me at an intersection or trying to squeeze in front of me just as the light changes.

Also, I received a text from a reader after my story on a move to fix the drainage problem that Merit Health is building a new clinic on Pemberton. One of the items he discussed was a concern about whether there would be proper on-site stormwater retention for the new building, especially with the chronic flooding problem on Pemberton Square Boulevard.

The problem with the board’s action is that it shouldn’t have had to fix the drainage. The drainage should have been properly installed when the development began. Now what we have is a situation where taxpayers are paying for the mistakes of a private company that should have been compelled to fix the problem at their expense.

A similar situation occurred when the city in 2014 took over the streets of Fox Run Subdivision. In Fox Run’s case, JMS Builders Inc., a now-defunct company that developed the subdivision in the 1990s, never properly paved the streets. I remember driving through the subdivision and talking with the residents about the streets, which were rutted, had loose gravel and potholes. The city paved the streets — something the developer should have done — at taxpayer expense.

The problem is Vicksburg is not alone when it comes to taxpayers paying for the mistakes of private companies and it’s something that needs to be addressed.

Nothing can be done about the past mistakes that require attention years after the fact but this may be a good time for the city to review its building codes and make developers more accountable for their work to ensure we don’t have future problems.

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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