Riverfront cleanup to begin

Published 12:10 am Friday, July 15, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Nikki Foreman, left, and Janaea Jennings walk past the Hesco Bastion instant levees that remain outside of the Comfort Suites hotel in Vidalia Thursday afternoon.

VIDALIA — Recovery takes patience, and that is exactly what Vidalia officials are asking from their residents as Womack and Sons Construction Group begins debris removal on the riverfront at 7 a.m. Monday.

Crews will be working 12-hour shifts Monday through Friday, and Vidalia Director of Marketing and Public Relations Sherri Rabb said the project is going to make travel on the riverfront a difficult procedure.

Rabb said because the Hesco Bastions and dirt are spread out all over the Riverfront, clean-up crews will be cleaning up each building one at a time.

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Because of this, Rabb said traffic on the riverfront will be closed at different places each day, depending on where Womack is working.

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Starting Monday, construction workers will begin removing the remainder of Hesco Bastion instant levees and debris from the Vidalia Riverfront.

Rabb said the city will be posting signs, assigning officers from the Vidalia Police Department and updating their web sites to make sure residents know which of the three entrance ramps to the riverfront is currently closed.

“Just to be safe, contact the business you are trying to get to before you head over there,” she said. “That way they can let you know which way to go.”

With reports estimating the project could take up to 11 weeks to complete, Rabb said the city just wants to make sure everyone is safe.

“There is going to be heavy equipment all down the riverfront, and we are just wanting people to stay extremely cautious,” she said. “If you don’t have to come to the riverfront, stay away. Everything will go easier and quicker if there are no sightseers there.

Rabb said the construction group doesn’t know how long it will take to clean up each area of debris on the riverfront, so the traffic schedule may change frequently.

“It may take them two hours to get rid of all the Hesco baskets at the convention center, or it may take them four days,” she said. “There are so many things that can affect how fast the process goes, there is no way of telling how long it will take.”

Rabb said the construction crew’s No. 1 priority is cleaning the streets of debris, and after the Hesco baskets and large piles of dirt are removed, the crew will come back with a sweeper to finish the clean-up process.

“It is a really high powered machine,” she said. “And they only have it for a week, so they are waiting to use it on everything.”

Rabb said Womack and Sons are slated to being removing the debris near the middle entrance ramp on the riverfront near Riverpark Medical Center.

“That is the first area they are going to begin taking down,” she said. “The middle ramp will be closed.”

Rabb said anyone wanting to go to the convention center, Comfort Inn Suites, Royale Salon or Riverpark needs to enter the riverfront on the north end by the hotel.

Anyone going to Promise needs to use the south entrance, Rabb said.

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, Rabb said 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.

“The papers are on the president’s desk, and we are just waiting on them to be signed,” she said. “We have our fingers crossed on this one.”