JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – With the mayor and city council on the same page, Jackson is officially reaching out to Governor Tate Reeves and legislators for emergency funds to prevent a repeat of this water crisis. The requests come with a hefty price tag.
With City Councilman De’Keither Stamps of Ward six now the voice for District 66 in the Mississippi House of Representatives. He called this meeting with a few other legislators drawing up more than $100 million to address what the mayor described are “immediate needs.”
With full support, the city council voted in favor of two items supporting the mayor’s letter for $47 million in emergency funds. Then adding another $60 million to build a stronger water distribution system with more presence in South and West Jackson plus Byram.
“What I added was additional storage capacity to be on reserve just in case these issues happen again,” Councilman Stamps explained. “They happen frequently, and I want to make sure there’s enough water in South Jackson, West Jackson, and in Byram.”
With this $107 million from state and/or federal emergency funds under Governor Reeves state of emergency declaration Jackson wants to build four water storage towers from Byram to South and West Jackson. The draft now goes to the Capitol Building to be introduced on the floor.
“We don’t have a direct connection to the Federal Government, we only connect to the Federal Government through the state,” Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said. “So, in an instance like this, I’m hopeful and optimistic that this crisis may be generating resources that can help us.”
Throughout the meeting council members, Mayor Lumumba, and Public Works Director Dr. Charles Williams determined this move was necessary from city revenue lacking in tax bases declining and the water billing system failing. Putting off routine maintenance.
“We failed in our enterprise system,” Mayor Lumumba addressed to the council. “It’s our enterprise system that normally handles those things but since we’ve been challenged that’s why we don’t have that.”
“Our biggest problem is once we get past this, whatever money we get, we got to maintain it,” Dr. Williams added. “If we don’t have the revenue to maintain it we’re going to be right back to where we started 2-3 years from now.”
“When it comes to our Siemens revenue, we used a portion of that to pay off debt and we still have some in reserve,” Councilman Stamps said about the $90 million Jackson won from Siemens in a lawsuit. “So it hasn’t been all spent. We continue to make sure we look at all resources coming in to be good Stewarts of it going forward.”
Senators Sollie Norwood, Hillman Frazier, and Representative Debra Gibbs were the only state lawmakers in attendance to hear this full plan. But Mayor Lumumba and Dr. Williams also met the Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn earlier to explain these needs.
A second one percent sales tax has also been purposed to put on the ballot for Jackson voters to approve during the next election cycle to pump money into water system repairs. But those estimates only add up to $13 million yearly to solve a $2 billion problem.
Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann released a statement about the issue and said lawmakers are hopeful the city would receive funding from the third COVID relief bill.
The water crisis in the Capital City is of great concern to our office. We are very interested in the city’s plan for efficiently and sustainably shoring up infrastructure. We are also hopeful that the federal funds the city is set to receive from the third COVID relief bill will be helpful to address these needs.”Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, R-Miss.
During a news conference on Friday, Williams said the PSI level for the city’s water system was at 85. He said he feels “encouraged” by the progress.
Lumumba is expected to meet with officials from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) next week.