Bids for riverfront clean up to be opened

Published 12:04 am Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — The view from the Riverfront Royale salon has been of the instant levees since they were built for the flood. Bids to remove the levees will be opened today

VIDALIA —The majority of the Hesco Bastion instant levees and piles of dirt resting on the riverfront have outlived the Great Mississippi River flood by almost a month.

The first step in removing the piles of debris flocking the riverfront begins today when Vidalia officials will meet at City Hall to open bids from companies requesting the rights to the clean-up project.

“That is basically what we have been waiting on to move forward with the cleanup,” Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland said. “Hopefully we can get this done, and get some normalcy back to the riverfront.”

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Copeland said the city has received several bids already, and he just hopes they come in at reasonable prices.

Copeland said Vidalia has already sent in the first phase of its purchases for flood preparation to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and should have the second phase sent by the end of the week.

“We are still waiting to be funded from FEMA,” he said. “We have to continue sending in our purchases, but we should be getting reimbursed within the next three weeks.”

Copeland said that while Vidalia has been declared under a “category B” emergency measure, meaning the parish will only be reimbursed for any protective measures it has taken against the flood, it has yet to be declared under a “category A.”

A “category A” measure reimburses local governments for debris removal after an emergency, which would include the removal of the Hesco baskets and dirt.

Copeland said that while the city is not yet authorized to receive funding under “category A,” he believes Vidalia will have the category added.

“We may be able to work some of these costs under plan ‘B,’” he said. “But hopefully we can get some clarity on this in the next few weeks.”

With preparation, recovery and clean-up costs, Copeland said the total cost of the flood for the city will be approximately $2 to $3 million.

The mayor said the cost could be higher, because the city is still checking for additional damage on the riverfront.

“We still don’t know about the streets, and if they have any damage,” he said. “We also have to do some more tests to the buildings to make sure everything is fine.”

With the pieces to the clean-up and recovery puzzle slowly coming together, Copeland said the city should have its riverfront back to its full potential sometime by the beginning of September.

“It feels good to have gotten where we are, because many people thought it couldn’t be done,” he said. “But we did what we had to do to save the businesses and the jobs on the riverfront.”

Copeland said Vidalia will open bids starting at 10 a.m.