Levee funds may be short

Published 12:03 am Sunday, July 9, 2017

NATCHEZ — The Adams County Board of Supervisors president said this week a levee project at the county’s prime industrial site could fall short of completion, by some estimates as much as $4 million.

Board of Supervisors President Mike Lazarus said he has also been attempting to locate additional funds.

Delta Regional Authority provided a $1.2 million grant and since the low bid came in at $895,731, Lazarus said the county would be able to get more levee for its dollar. Lazarus said the second round of funding, which has not been awarded, looks to range from $500,000 to $750,000. The grant money would not require a match, Lazarus said.

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“The key to the future in Adams County is Belwood,” Lazarus said. “If we are ever going to land any industry, it will be on the river next to the port and rail. Everything within the existing port levee is already taken up — we need more space.”

Lazarus said the Belwood levee was originally supposed to be a $4- to $5-million project. However, Lazarus said he was optimistic with the bids so far that the project would come in under $5 million. Though Lazarus said the cost of dirt could increase or decrease.

County Engineer Jim Marlow, on the other hand, said the project may come in as high as $6 million.

At $4 million, even getting the maximum from the DRA in phase two funding would still leave the county approximately $2 million short. In the worst-case scenario, the county could be more than $4 million short of completing the project.

Lazarus said he is talking with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg to find a solution to completing the levee.

“They are going to identify some ways to (complete the project),” Lazarus said. “I will take the county engineer with me, and we will probably make several trips to Vicksburg. I talked to them twice last week and they are working on some stuff.”

Marlow said if the contract, which was awarded to Walter’s Construction of Laurel, comes short the $1.2 million grant, those additional monies would be applied to a future phase of the project. Marlow said, however, if the materials prices run higher, the contract could easily go above the bid price of approximately $896,000.

During this phase, approximately 3,800 feet of levee would be built, which would be about 24 percent of completion. At the highest points of elevation, the levee would be 6-feet high, while at the lowest points of this phase the levee would get as high as 10 feet.

Once the project nears the river during a future phase of work, Marlow said the levee would be as tall as 15 to 16 feet.

Lazarus said the county has to figure out a way to complete the levee.

“For the last 10 years, everyone has come to look at the Belwood site,” Lazarus said. “When they learn it floods, they leave. We have got to break the cycle.”