J.M. Jones cleaning up after flood

Published 12:02 am Thursday, June 23, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT J.M. Jones employee Howard Jones marks the amount of wood with a spray can Wednesday afternoon at J.M. Jones Lumber Company in Natchez. The lumber company’s sawmills are operating again, but the owner says things are still not the same.

NATCHEZ — J.M. Jones Lumber Company’s sawmills have been back in action since June 10, Howard Jones said, but the long-time Natchez business isn’t back to normal just yet.

“What we’ve got to do now is clean up and reshape our levees,” Jones said.

The sawmills were closed down for almost four weeks, but the company’s yard ran at about 60 percent during that time, Lee Jones, Howard Jones’ father, said.

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“I’m doing well, and that’s the first time I can say that in weeks,” Lee Jones said Wednesday. “I’m less worse than I was a few weeks ago, we can say that.”

The clean-up process has already begun, Howard Jones said, but the recent rainfall put them back by a few days.

Getting their lumber all back at the company is going to be a timely process, though, he said, because it’s all spread out to different locations.

“We’ll have to pay to have all of that stuff hauled out to here,” Howard Jones said. “It seems like the cash register just keeps going.”

The company spent approximately $700,000 building up its levees in labor and material costs, including sand bags and dirt.

“We also have the lost revenue from not being able to run the sawmills, and that can be as much as $1 million,” Howard Jones said.

The hope is that the U.S. Small Business Administration can replace some of those funds, he said, but getting all of the information together has proven to be a problem.

“We send it in and they request more information, we send it in again and they request more information,” Howard Jones said. “It’s been a very cumbersome process, but we’re pretty patient.

“Today we presented all of the information they asked for and they’re reviewing it, but we don’t know anything beyond that,” Howard Jones said.

Hopefully, he said, the company can be reimbursed for the lost revenue and the expenses they incurred throughout the flood.

“We don’t have a specific number for the SBA, we’re just hoping we can borrow enough money to reshape the levees, and it’s probably going to take $100,000 plus to do that,” he said. “(We’re hoping) they can just help us through a difficult time.”

For now, the business owners can only wait to see what happens.

“It’s a more cumbersome process than I hoped it would be,” he said. “I just thought it would be a more streamlined process.”

But he said he understands that the SBA has rules and regulations they have to follow.

“These unplanned expenditures came at a bad time,” Howard Jones said. “The lumber business is not good, the economy is not good. It couldn’t have come at a worse time.”