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Emergency road repair money drying up

NATCHEZ — The Natchez Adams-County area might have to look a little harder to find money to make repairs the next time a road washes out during a storm.

That’s because the federal government has made modifications to the Emergency Watershed Program, which provides federal assistance through the Natural Resources Conservation Service to help shore up land against erosion events or restore and prevent further erosion to an area that has already been hard hit by erosive action.

In the past, a rain event that dumped an inch of water over eight hours or 4 inches within 24 hours would automatically qualify an area for EWP work if it was needed.

However, recent changes to the program have taken away that automatic trigger.

“Now, the President of the United States would have to sign a state of emergency in Adams County for EWPs to take place,” Adams County Board of Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said.

While projects that have already been approved and are under way have been grandfathered in, the new regulations will make EWP money much less accessible.

“(The change) is going to put a screeching halt to EWPs,” Supervisor Mike Lazarus said.

Though several EWP projects have been completed this year, one example of the work done through EWPs was in July on Triplett Lane, which started collapsing after a series of heavy rains in March, crumbling to the point of being only one-lane wide. If the road had fully collapsed, at that time the residents of Kenny Graves Apartments would not have had an exit in an emergency situation. EWP funds provided $82,802 of the $91,072 project.

On the topic of addressing the flow of water, the supervisors also opened and took under advisement bids for a Community Development Block Grant drainage project on Kingston and Cloverdale roads.

Grennell said the state had excess money left over from Hurricane Katrina recovery funds, and the money is being shared with all of the counties for drainage improvement.

The apparent low bid for the project came from Dirtworks Inc. at $244,382.10.

County Engineer Jim Marlow said the engineer’s estimate for the project prior to receiving bids was $234,742.

In other news:

• The board voted to authorize County Administrator Joe Murray to act as the county’s representative before the Natchez Preservation Commission.

An awning on the former Adams County jail — which now houses the supervisors, county administrator and information technology manager’s offices — was blown off during a straightline wind event 15 years ago, and though some efforts to repair the awning were made at the time, the repairs were never completed, Grennell said.

“Now, it is creating a water problem for us structurally,” Grennell said. “We need to get that awning back up there to protect the integrity of the building.”

• The supervisors entered executive session to discuss the potential purchase of property and industrial prospects.