Notes from the Mayor Nov. 21, 2019

By EDDIE FULTON,

What is going on in Quitman? This is a fair question asked more times by citizens and the media including the Mississippi Business Journal (MBJ). Their recent article, written from the input of Dr. Jacob Gines of Mississippi State School of Architecture, tells the story of a collaborative group working to bring commercial and industrial business into the City of Quitman. That collaborative group includes David Hall, one of the best timber experts in the southeastern United States. I met David and Jacob (Jake) at a timber conference in New Orleans, and we are now working together with lofty goals that would not be achievable through individual efforts. We also have the Mississippi Development Authority’s Ambassador Program, Smart Growth America’s John Robert Smith, our Supervisors, Board of Aldermen, a large group of visionary volunteers, and our new slate of Legislative leaders including Senator Jeff Tate, and Representative Troy Smith on board. We will be working together to clean up the three Brownfield sites in Quitman. Quitman Village is the name being given to one Brownfield site, and funds to clean up the site and turn it into a viable economic engine will be requested from our Legislature. I am very excited about this collaborative effort.

Infrastructure improvements are an ongoing operation and Dunn Road Builders will soon rebuild 160’ of damaged roadbed on West Franklin by Hardees, remove damaged asphalt, and repave Railroad Avenue from the end of W. Franklin to West Donald Street. These areas were damaged by the flooding from the storm waters in December 2018. F E M A is covering 75% of the cost of these projects. The process of securing funding is lengthy and has taken over ten months to get the funding from FEMA.

I declared an Emergency this past Friday for the Hwy 512 (W. Donald) road by Harris Avenue. The temporary repairs showed movement in the roadbed that could cause a collapse of three to four feet of the road. One side (North) will be open until we can build a permanent structure to alleviate the problem. Work is scheduled to start within two weeks, and the road will be closed at that time until project is completed. This work will be paid for from funds we will receive from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Pat Harrison.

A new water well will be drilled this spring, which is being funded by rate payers. It will bring us in compliance with the Health Department and Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality for having two wells from the same aquifer. Quitman has two wells that pull water from the Lower Wilcox Aquifer, and one from the Sparta Aquifer. Most of the county uses water from the Lower Wilcox Aquifer, but water we get from that aquifer is loaded with salt and volatile organics that are very challenging to treat. The Sparta Aquifer has very low salt content and no volatile organic material, which is much more desirable. Once the required new well is brought in the North Jackson Lower Wilcox well will be permanently closed. That is also required.

We have received a Community Development Block Grant of $450,000 to complete the sewer lines and lift station from West Lynda Street to Brown Avenue. Once completed, damages resulting from infiltration of storm water into the sewer system will be reduced as well as the potential back-up of sewer water into businesses or homes in this area. Lift stations that have been inundated with storm water infiltration have been very costly making this project extremely important. Work will start in the spring.

Buying new equipment whether it is police cars or for equipment for our street department is challenging. We are purchasing a new dump truck that will haul up to four yards of red clay or gravel. This will replace a 12 cubic yard dump truck that is over twenty years old and give us one to fit the demands faced more frequently. We applied and received $10,000 to help pay for the cost of the dump body. The Board of Aldermen are reviewing the purchase of a Police Car and a ½ Ton truck to replace older equipment. It is in the budget, but we always wait until the spring when we have a better idea as to cash flow.

In 2016 I applied for funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (A.R.R.A.) which is administered by the Army Corps of Engineers. Fontaine Engineering completed a design and costed a project to bring sewer service to areas not being served today. The project in 2016 would cost a little over three million dollars, and that cost will continue to rise. Congress has not funded an infrastructure bill, even though everyone agrees to its importance. There are no state or other monies available for a project like this. We were number 12 in the system in 2016, and with the limited funding only two A.R.R.A. projects are completed each year. If you talk to any of our National Elected Officials, remind them of this need.

We are working on a drainage project to mitigate damages from flooding in the downtown area and areas along Railroad Avenue. We are spending $20,000 to complete hydrology studies necessary to get funding from FEMA through their mitigation drainage program. Drainage projects are cumbersome and require more information than anything I have ever done in the private sector and now the public sector.  The first challenge is to demonstrate why an X flood zone which is rated to flood once every hundred years, requires a drainage project. Since 2016 we have had severe losses from storm water run-off flooding. One storm like that faced by Houston, Texas or in North Carolina bringing in 10” or more would be catastrophic for us. 

We have received a $150,000 grant to go along with local money to complete the restoration of the gutted building next door. It has been bid out twice resulting in costs that we could not accept. A local contractor, recommended by Supervisor Darrick Marshall, has suggested a better way to handle the work without removing the concrete foundation, which would result in lower costs. Our Engineer has indicated the idea is feasible given the right contractor with experience to perform this work. It will now be bid again with new specifications. The building is to house the expansion of city hall and an Economic Development Center.

Our Police and Fire Department personnel are starting the Healthy Heroes Program in the Enterprise School District and hopefully we will add the Quitman School District. This program teaches healthy eating, exercise, and avoiding tobacco products and vaping to fifth graders. Healthy eating is a critical component to not putting anything in your body that may possibly shorten the life expectancy of our children. Current estimates put the demand for illegal drugs at 150 to 200 billion dollars. Stopping this flow into our country is a wonderful effort but reducing the demand at the other end is critical if we want to have a clean work force and a safe community. Healthy Heroes is an effort to educate fifth graders about an active healthy lifestyle. It also builds trust between our young citizens and policemen.