BY JOE B. COATES
For years, flooding has been a terrible problem for parts of Wards 2, 3, and 4 in Hazlehurst. The areas along and between Nelson Drive, Massengill Street, Ainsworth Street and St. Charles Street in Hazlehurst have been hardest hit. During times of heavy rain, main hole covers have flooded and have become dislodged, sewage has backed up into homes creating an awful mess and pesky potholes have formed where water has furiously flowed over large sections of roadway.
The area harbors several key problems that have caused the messes. Manhole covers and sewer lines are located below the flood plain, effectively creating a pooling point for the rushing water before it is directed to the treatment lagoon on Nelson Drive. Some of the lines actually run uphill. Large amounts of water cannot move as quickly as needed through the area and, consequently, flooding problems occur frequently. Once that happens, the whole mess, of course, will take the path of least resistance. Usually, it is back in to residential sewage lines.
Residents have fought the water-related problems tooth-and-nail, and city street crews haven’t been able to keep a good handle on the problems.
After receiving the blessings of Mayor Henry Banks and the rest of the Board of Aldermen, Ward 3 alderman Shirley Sandifer and public works manager Loyd Hilliard spent numerous hours filling out paperwork, making phone calls to state officials, photographing and documenting the problem areas and going door to door assisting residents with surveys to help facilitate approval of a grant to help fight the problem. State representative Gregory Holloway of Hazlehurst has also performed a major role in gettting the city and the CMPDD together.
Now that the city of Hazlehurst has received a $440,000 grant from the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District, the sewage problem can be met head on and with full force. A second grant that will assist in solving the drainage problem is pursued, called a Hazardous Mitigation Grant. Sandifer and the city have made initial and subsequent efforts to complete paperwork and application forms for what could be a grant of up to $300,000.
A delegation of officials from CMPDD and Mississippi Development Authority were in town Tuesday, just in time to witness part of the problem. In town were Mitzi Stubbs, who has been the main liaison for CMPDD, Patrica Turner and Brenda Lacey, both of whom are Development Specialists with Mississippi Development Authority. Almost as if ordered, a severe storm moved through the area that day and dumped several inches of rain in Hazlehurst, telling a story that has been told several times before.
The first phase of the project will raise manhole covers and replace and upgrade the main sewage drain lines in the Massengill Drive area that carry wastewater to the lagoon. Work can begin in spring 2009, and is estimated to take several months, Sandifer said.
The city will know soon whether or not the Hazardous Mitigation Grant will be awarded.