By Stephanie R. Jones
JA Contributing Writer
Residents of Presidential Hills, who for years have endured flooding of their streets and homes and erosion of their properties, received news that help to remedy the problem is on the way.
Hinds County District 2 Supervisor David L. Archie told the more than 200 residents gathered at New Galilean Baptist Church on Flag Chapel Road Monday evening that the county has received $4 million in federal funding specifically earmarked for repairs needed to fix flooding and drainage problems in the Northwest Jackson neighborhood. The new federal allotment is on top of $750,000 in pandemic relief funds announced for the project earlier this year.
“We finally have enough money to fix the problems in Presidential Hills,” Archie said. “We’re going to try to make sure it is all used and not a dime is sent back.”
The funds are coming from the National Resources Conservation Services, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Board of Supervisors can’t take it and put it toward other projects, stated District 1 Supervisor Robert Graham, who also addressed the gathering. “For the first time, Presidential Hills will be first, not last” when it comes to funding for needed projects, he added. Its residents have struggled for years with “water in the front of their houses, water in the back, water all around.”
“When someone is trying to get into your house, you have mechanisms to keep them out. You have alarms, police. But when water comes, you can’t keep it out.” This allotment will lead to mechanisms to combat water from coming in, he said.
Latoya Thompson, special counsel for the Board of Supervisors, said the water operation program is designed to reduce damage from drainage and flooding problems. She outlined the phases of the project: planning, design and construction and said planning is underway. She and the supervisors are working with engineers as they go through the 200-plus pages of federal regulations that come along with the program.
Charles Sims, Hinds County public works director and engineering manager, informed the crowd that preparations have to be made in order for work to begin, such as cleaning out debris and overgrowth from ditches and creeks.
Murry Stewart, who has worked with the Board of Supervisors for five years and has an even longer history working with the county, pinpointed sources of the flooding problems.
Various factors have contributed to flooding in the subdivision which has approximately 1,500 residents. A dam was breached in 2013 that held back a retention pond behind North Jackson Middle School and was never repaired. The neighborhood is also littered with dummy sewer and dummy drains that lead to nowhere so water backs up during heavy rains. Additionally, two channels for water from Bogue Chitto Creek and the Big Black River flow into one in the community.
The county has hired IMS Engineers, a Black-owned consulting, engineering, management, and operations firm, to do preliminary planning work. Rod Hill, co-founder and COO, said in addition to its headquarters in Jackson, IMS has operations in Texas and Tennessee and has worked internationally, mainly on projects in Africa.
Tommy Avant, IMS corporate vice president and engineer, said their role is making sure the project gets done right the first time so it doesn’t have to be redone and corrected down the road. “A lot of what is happening now is due to lack of maintenance. Along the two main veins some are clogged; some are not right-sized,” Avant said. He added that having a maintenance plan is paramount to the project’s long-term success.
Archie told residents not to expect that problems will be fixed in 3 or 6 months because the process is extensive. He advised residents that, as the project progresses, permissions for easements may be needed to gain access to their properties.
Jackson City Councilman Vernon Hartley attended the meeting although he represents Ward 5 of the city. “I came to listen and learn because we are dealing with some of the same issues in my area,” Hartley said.
Presidential Hills is in the city’s Ward 2 represented by Angelique Lee. Neither she nor any representative from her office attended the meeting.
Several residents had questions about their specific concerns with their properties. Some mentioned yards caving in due to erosion, watering getting into their houses and poor drainage in their sinks, tubs, and toilets. They were asked to write their name and addresses and their concern on papers that were collected by members of Archie’s staff for follow-up.
If it was any indication of residents’ concerns about the flooding issues, only a handful of people in the large crowd left before the meeting ended.
Stephanie R. Jones can be reached at Stephjones1017@gmail.com or (601) 454-0372.