City progresses with efforts to hire consultant for long term capital improvement plan

By ANTHONY WARREN,

A private consultant could be in place this summer to help the city determine how to address its water, sewer and road needs.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba’s administration is in talks with a team of consultants interested in helping the city draw up a long-range capital improvement plan.

The news comes a year after the one-percent commission approved a $500,000 allocation to fund the plan, and about 10 months after the city council rejected the mayor’s first proposal.

In July, the council voted down the mayor’s motion to award a contract not to exceed $500,000 to a team of consultants led by Hatch Associates Consulting.

The council rejected the measure because the team was led by Hatch, an out-of-state firm, Ward One Councilman Ashby Foote said.

Hatch is an international firm with offices in 18 countries and 13 states, according to its website.

“The council as a whole wasn’t convinced we needed to hire these folks from way out of town,” he said. “We weren’t sold on it.” 

Foote said he isn’t sold on bringing on a consultant now, but would want to hear the mayor’s proposal before making a decision “I’d give it hard thought, but I’d have to hear what they have to say.” 

Lumumba said new team will be a “combination of local professionals that know Jackson,” he said. “It’s a team the council will be in support of.”  

The mayor would not release the names of the consultants, because talks were ongoing.

“We will take it to the council before (names) are announced,” he said, adding that firms being considered “are all local.”

If hired, the firms will be responsible for helping the city craft its plan and provide program management services as needed.

Initial work will include pulling together all of the city’s past engineering studies and using the information to help needs.

Jackson has commissioned numerous infrastructure studies over the years, among them a 2013 assessment of the city’s water system conducted by Neel-Schaffer and a 2013 road evaluation conducted by Stantec Engineering Services. In 2015, Allen Engineering was brought on to conduct an assessment of the city’s drainage system.

Public Works Director Robert Miller told one-percent commissioners about those studies at a meeting last May.

“We have between 11 and 12 inches’ worth of documents. And the problem is that each one of those is not integrated and not funded,” he said.

Consultants brought on will pull together that information, digitize it and map out immediate infrastructure needs for the next two years, as well as begin to determine needs for the following eight.

Once information is digitized, the city will be able to access it quicker and therefore respond quicker to infrastructure emergencies.

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