News Briefs

City Interested in Loan

Jackson could get some much-needed help in addressing its water and sewer infrastructure needs in the form of a long-term, low-interest loan.

The city is planning to submit a letter of interest to apply for a loan through the federal Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA).

Council members approved Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba’s request to submit the letter and agreed to hire Waggoner Engineering to craft it.

Letters are due to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by 11:59 p.m., July 5.

Priorities for the city include making upgrades to its water and wastewater treatment facilities, repairing and replacing water distribution lines, and repairing and replacing sewer collection lines.

City documents did not specify an amount being sought.

Jackson has more than a billion dollars in water and sewer needs. A 2013 assessment of the city’s water system showed that Jackson had around $405 million in water replacement needs. Based on inflation, that amount today would be around $444 million.

On the sewer side, Jackson must make between $600 million and $800 million in federally mandated upgrades to bring the system into compliance with water quality laws.

Under WIFIA, Congress authorized the EPA to issue up to $6 billion in credit assistance and $12 billion in long-term, low interest for water infrastructure improvements.

Priority projects under the law include those that are at or nearly shovel-ready, those that provide clean, safe drinking water and reduce the risk of exposure to lead and other contaminants, those that include repairing, rehabbing or replacing water/sewer lines, and those that provide new or innovative approaches to reusing or recycling water.

Minimum project cost is $20 million for cities of 25,000 people or more. Loans can pay up to 49 percent of approved projects, according to the EPA’s website.

Loans carry a fixed interest rate at or more than the current U.S. Treasury rate. Right now, the rate is around 2.84 percent, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s website states. Cities have up to 35 years to repay the debt and can defer payment for up to five years after a project is completed.  

Waggoner’s contract is not to exceed $43,250.


Tower Location Changes

Updated plans for a controversial radio tower, which were originally shot down June 2018, were presented to the Madison County planning and zoning commission.

Matthew Wesolowski, with WYAB 103.9 FM, requested a conditional use for the communications tower which is intended for the station’s radio signal. The board approved his request and the matter will go before the board of supervisors.

The proposed location is a half mile from the original spot they were seeking last year. The property is located on Lake Cavalier Road and zoned R-1 residential. 

Last year, Wesolowski requested the board’s approval to build the tower and a 10x10-foot shed on 2.73 acres of 16th section land leased by the Madison County School District.

While the station’s studio would remain in Flora, the station was requesting the special exception for a broadcast site in Madison.

The request was previously denied because of resident complaints that they would be able to see the tower from their homes or that the tower would add extra traffic.

However, Wesolowski said that would not have been an issue as the site was never meant to hold the studio, where the team works.

The station had to gain approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Communications Commission and the Madison County School Board before taking the matter to Madison County Planning and Zoning and then the Board of Supervisors.


Bids Received

The bids are in for the second phase of the Eastover Drive water main replacement project.

Last week, Jackson public works received three bids for the project, one each from Utility Constructors, Hemphill Construction and Delta Constructors.

Utility submitted the lowest bid, $1,134,019, while Hemphill and Delta came in at $1,571,760 and $1,673,605 respectively.

It was not known when the measure would be taken before the city council.

Public Works Director Robert Miller discussed the project at a recent one-percent commission meeting. Work will include replacing a six-inch water main from Ridgewood Road to the south end of Lake Circle Drive in the Eastover community.

Once the new line is in place, the street will be repaved, he said.

“You’ve seen me quoted in the paper that some of the water mains are like peanut brittle, as if they’re made out of grandma’s peanut brittle,” he said. “This is one of the lines I’m talking about.”

The project will be a continuation of the first phase, which ran along the south side of Eastover Drive from Ridgewood Road to the I-55 North frontage road.

Work is being funded by the city’s infrastructure sales tax.



Millsaps Announces Partnership

A newly-signed agreement between Millsaps College and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) will allow undergraduate Millsaps students to earn a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in nursing in just five years.

“This is an exciting new opportunity for students pursuing careers in nursing and healthcare,” said Dr. Robert W. Pearigen, president of Millsaps College. “Millsaps has a reputation for providing innovative and experiential learning opportunities in the sciences, and we look forward to building on that reputation through this partnership with our colleagues at UAB.”

“This exclusive agreement with UAB not only offers our students the ability to receive a B.S., M.S., and R.N. degree in five years, but the opportunity to concurrently pursue degrees such as a master’s of public health,” said Dr. Timothy J. Ward, associate dean of research and faculty development and professor of chemistry at Millsaps College.

“A particularly attractive feature of this partnership is that upon completion of the program, students can choose to pursue additional degrees such as a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant while continuing to work at UAB’s University Hospital. This presents the unique advantage to potentially pursue additional advanced degrees in the healthcare field without relocating.” 

Through the agreement, students at Millsaps will have the option to enroll in a dual degree program in the spring of their senior year. During that spring semester, students will be admitted into UAB’s Accelerated Master’s in Nursing Pathways (AMNP) program. Five spots within the program are guaranteed each year for qualified Millsaps students.

“UAB is a world-class institution for health professions, and Millsaps is the only institution in Mississippi approached by UAB to develop this partnership,” Pearigen said. “Through collaborative relationships with other institutions like UAB, we are able to offer Millsaps students a unique combination of educational perspectives and opportunities.”

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