Landowners stymie plans to improve flooding

By ANTHONY WARREN,

Five homeowners are holding up progress on the Belhaven Creek Improvement Project, but that number could soon be reduced to four, with the owners of one home could soon relent, following a meeting with city officials to discuss the project.

The improvements would help prevent flooding along several Belhaven streets, but the city of Jackson can’t move forward with it until it obtains 16 easements within the project’s pathway.

So far, the city has obtained 11 of the easements, with Bill and Gretchen Cook, the owner of a home in the 1600 block of St. Mary Street expected to grant easements soon.

The remaining owners are either out of town or out of state and have not responded to the city’s request.

Jackson Engineering Manager Charles Williams said the city and its engineers have reached out to those individuals via certified mail and know the requests for the easements have been delivered. However, none of the owners have responded.

“We do have valid addresses, but we can’t force them to respond,” he said.

Three properties are located in the 1600 block of Piedmont Street, one other is located in the 1600 block of St. Mary Street.

Owners include Daniel O. Womack (1604 Piedmont), who now is living in Box Elder, S.D., Sean Scruggs (1601 Piedmont), now in Houston, Texas, Katherine and Robert Clay (1603 Piedmont), now in Waynesboro, and Nat and Carrie Duncan (1607 St. Mary), now in Leland.

Gretchen Cook said she and her husband will likely sign off on the city’s request after meeting project officials.

“We’ve been supportive of the project from the get-go, because not only are we affected, but our neighbors are, too,” said Gretchen Cook. “I think basically our issue has been unanswered questions.”

Among those questions, Cook wanted to know whether certain trees would be torn down and exactly how much of their property would be taken to make improvements.

“We went to the city to look at their maps. They set up a meeting with engineers from the project, and they walked us though it step-by-step and showed us what they were doing,” she said. “There are still a few things to work out before we’re 100 percent on board. But we’ve never been not on board. We just wanted answers to our questions.”

 

The roughly $2 million project includes widening the creek from St. Mary Street to south of Laurel Street.

From St. Mary to Piedmont Street the city will add a concrete wall along the shoreline to prevent erosion, said Jackson Engineering Manager Charles Williams. From Piedmont to Laurel, rip rap would be added to serve the same purpose.

A new box culvert would also be installed at St. Mary to improve flow during peak times.

Box culverts are designed to allow to water to drain under structures like roads and bridges unimpeded. The current box culvert is too small to handle current runoff from heavy storms.

Plans were drawn up by Jackson-based Southern Consultants. The firm was brought on in 2016, for approximately $225,000.

The city hopes to fund the project with its one-percent infrastructure sales tax.

No funds had been set aside for the work at press time, and Williams said the city likely won’t ask for money until the easements are in place.

The creek serves the Belhaven drainage basin, which runs from Glenway Drive and Lakeland Drive in the north to Pinehurst Street in the south. East to west, the area stretches from Museum Boulevard to Veterans Memorial Stadium and Millsaps College.

 

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