Mayor, commission want to leverage one percent monies to issue bondsBy ANTHONY WARREN,
Jackson could easily pay for several drainage control projects with the one-percent revenues it has on hand, according to an official with the city’s public works department.
However, instead of paying for those projects with the funds it has on hand, the one-percent commission and the mayor are leaning toward leveraging one-percent monies to issue bonds which would not only pay for the flooding projects, but other infrastructure needs as well.
The city needs an estimated $7.1 million for five drainage/flood control projects, including three on the Northside.
The $7.1 million is less than half of the $15.1 million in one-percent revenues the city currently has in the bank, according to Engineering Manager Charles Williams.
Williams gave the one-percent commission an update on flooding projects at the board’s August meeting.
The meeting came weeks after a storm caused severe flash flooding in Belhaven, Fondren and Midtown.
The commission is slated to meet again next week, on Wednesday, September 13.
Two projects designed to address flooding along Eubanks Creek in Fondren are 90 and 60 percent complete, respectively.
While design work for the Belhaven Creek project is nearly wrapped up, sitting at 95 percent.
The total construction estimates for the two Eubanks projects are $3.4 million, while construction costs for the Belhaven Creek project is an estimated $2 million, Williams told the board.
Plan designs are also 60 percent complete for the Town Creek and Westhaven Boulevard/Caney Creek projects, he said.
The work on those creeks are expected to run around $1.2 million and $500,000 respectively.
In early August, the infrastructure tax has generated about $46.2 million, of which $31.2 million was obligated. Another $15.1 was in contingency.
No decisions on how to fund the drainage work had been decided on at press time.
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has intimated that he’d like to use at least a portion of the funds to leverage long-term bond debt, something some commissioners are open to.
The mayor also said he’d like to see if any of the flood control projects could be paid for with CCID funds. The CCID is the new “capitol complex improvement district.” Beginning August 2018, the state will begin allocating additional monies for infrastructure improvements within the district.
Some flood control needs are located in the district.
Commission Vice Chair Duane O’Neill would prefer issuing bonds, and issuing them in short order.
“I’m leaning that way right now,” he said. “I hope at the next meeting we can begin discussing how we can leverage our funds.”
The meeting was slated for Wednesday, September 13.
However, it’s clear the projects will have to be funded with one-percent dollars or revenues from other sources, considering few dollars have been set aside for drainage control as part of its 2018 proposed budget.
Public works’ proposed budget is around $267 million, according to Ward Two Councilman Melvin Priester.
“There will be some funds available, but to the degree (to fix what) we’ve seen, there won’t be enough to cover that,” Jerriot Smash, with public works, told the city council.
Smash said the department does hope to purchase a new vacuum truck to keep storm drains clean, and continue to work with solid waste to make sure storm drains are not blocked by debris.
Vacuum trucks can be used to suck sludge and other debris out of storm drains and creeks, opening up passage ways for storm water.
“Things like that we can continue to do,” he said.
In July, a major storm blew through causing extreme flash flooding across the Northside.
Belhaven Creek flooded portions of Riverside Drive, St. Mary Street, St. Ann Street and other areas in Belhaven.
The storm, coupled with drainage from upstream, caused the creek to overflow its banks in a matter of minutes, causing streets, yards and vehicles to get flooded.
At Riverside, the creek rose from 3.16 feet to more than 13 feet from just before 7 p.m. to 7:30. At Laurel Street, the creek went from 2.8 feet to 10.37 feet between 7 p.m. and 7;45, according to the National Weather Service.
Southern Consultants has drawn up plans to increase the creek’s capacity, which should present flooding along St. Mary, St. Ann and other neighborhood streets.
Plans call for replacing box culverts under Piedmont Street and St. Mary, and to re-channel portions of the creek to increase its capacity to handle runoff, according to city documents.
Between Piedmont and St. Ann, engineers are recommending building concrete walls along the creek banks, and adding rip rap along the bank from Laurel Street to Piedmont.
Engineers’ estimates show the plan would reduce flooding from a 25-year storm by four feet at St. Mary, between two and three feet at St. Ann, a little more than a foot at Lyncrest Drive and half a foot at Linden Place.
A 25-year storm, according to engineers, is a storm that has a four-percent chance of occurring once each year during a 25-year period.
The upgrades would alleviate nearly all of the flooding in the event of a storm similar to last month’s, which is considered a five-year-storm, James Stewart, Southern’s vice president and chief engineer, told the Sun previously.
“(Waters) shouldn’t top the road at St. Mary and St. Ann. There would still likely be some water on the street at Linden Place.”
Plans for Eubanks are being drawn up by Stantec Consulting Services and SOL Engineering.