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Crews fighting rain for Natchez Transit Facility

Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat — Sam Atkins lowers a large steel beam into place at the new Natchez Transit System facility on Wood Avenue in Natchez on Friday morning.
Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat — Sam Atkins lowers a large steel beam into place at the new Natchez Transit System facility on Wood Avenue in Natchez on Friday morning.

NATCHEZ — Recent rains red-lighted work on the Natchez Transit Facility, but City Engineer David Gardner said construction crews are still making progress.

Despite the weather, crews have poured the foundation and have begun erecting the steel frame for the facility, which will be located at the former A-B Motor Company site on North Shields Lane along Seargent S. Prentiss Drive.

Gardner said crews with Paul Jackson Construction of Brookhaven are working to get caught up to their construction schedule.

“They’ve had significant delays since we have had a higher-than-normal level of rainfall,” he said. “Now that they’ve got the slab poured, things should go much smoother, since they’re not necessarily working in the dirt.

“The hard part is done; you should start seeing a lot more progress now that we’re going vertical.”

Once the frame and roof are complete, Gardner said, crews will begin putting in the internal parts of the building, starting with electrical, plumbing and general carpentry.

Construction on the two-story facility must be complete by November 2013, Gardner said.

“The contractor knows he’s behind schedule and is doing that he can, whether that means longer hours or bringing in more people, it’s still kind of early to know how far behind you actually are,” Gardner said. “He hasn’t wasted any time; the time he has hasn’t had has been because of the wet conditions.”

The transit facility, its equipment, as well as two recently purchased trolleys, a commuter bus and two other passenger vehicles, are being funded by a $3 million federal stimulus package through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation is providing $900,000 in the MDOT formula grants for other than urbanized areas program, or Section 5311, funds to help pay for approximately $1 million in unforeseen costs for the facility.

The city will also have to pay approximately $200,000 in matching funds for the 5311 funds. Gardner has said he believes the city will only end up paying approximately $180,000.

City leaders originally believed the city would not be required to pay any matching funds for the transit facility, but construction bids for the facility came in more than the project’s budget, approximately $1 million more than the $2.4 million construction budget for the project.

Gardner said the discrepancy was caused by a mistake on the part of the project’s engineers. He said they did not factor in the “buy American” provision required to obtain funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The facility will be city-owned and will open up more grant funding opportunities that could pay for the operation and maintenance of the building, Natchez Transit System Director Sabrena Bartley has said.

The vision behind the transit facility is regionalism, and the goal is to centralize transportation services to one location, Bartley said.

Bartley said the facility will allow NTS to expand its service area and incorporate park-and-ride routes carrying out-of-town passengers with new fixed routes in the city that will have designated stops and fixed schedules.

She said NTS will be the lead agency at the facility and will be able to work with and coordinate services with other transportation providers.

Several organizations and agencies, Bartley said, have committed to be a part of the regional transit effort that will be centralized by the facility. Those organizations include the AJFC Community Action Agency, Claiborne County Human Resource Agency, Copiah County Resource Agency, First Class Limousine Service, the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors and approximately 12 other groups.