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CIty to seek help in drainage work

A major drainage area for the city has been targeted forerosion-control measures by the mayor and Board of Aldermen.

Aldermen voted Tuesday night to apply for up to $550,000 inNatural Resources Conservation Service Emergency Watershed funds toaddress erosion concerns along a large ditch that runs underHalbert Heights Road. Available on a 85 percent-15 percent basis,the city’s portion of the project would be $75,000 to $85,000,Mayor Bob Massengill said.

Officials estimated the ditch drains more than 65 percent of thecity’s water.

“It’s a tremendous amount of water after a big rain,” Massengillsaid.

Massengill said the erosion threatens a strip retail shoppingcomplex on the east side of the ditch and homes on the west side.He expressed fears the ditch will expand if something is notdone.

“The ditch is at least as wide as this room, and in two years,it will be as wide as this building,” the mayor said.

City sewer lines are also threatened.

Massengill said that would allow the city to tap into almost$1.3 million in reserve bond issue funds to meet the city’s match.The mayor said $1.2 million of that money has been set aside toprovide local matching for anticipated federal funding to addresssewer needs across the city.

When contacted this morning, NRCS District Conservationist GregBrinson mentioned earlier problems with the ditch. He indicatedthose were worsened by the recent hurricane.

“They had some more problems after the storm, especially with autility pole there,” Brinson said.

Brinson said he was planning to meet with Massengill to getpaperwork and engineering for the project under way. The erosioncontrol plan involves stabilizing with the sides of the ditch withrock, which is also known as rip rap.

Brinson said Congress had not yet approved the EmergencyWatershed funding, but he was optimistic that would happen afterthe hurricane. He wanted to get the preliminary work finished forwhen funding is approved.

“I’m hoping it will come through soon,” Brinson said.

In other city projects, the board approved seeking a USDA RuralDevelopment grant to assist with renovating the old MississippiHighway Patrol substation as the city’s new Police Departmentheadquarters.

Brookhaven officials were recently unsuccessful in securing aSmall Municipalities grant that would have covered more than halfof the projects. The USDA grant would contribute 35 percent, orabout $61,775, toward the project.

“It’s not as good, but it’d be 35 percent more than we havenow,” Massengill said.

Among other updates from the mayor,

* Massengill said plans for city’s multi-modal transportationfacility have been sent to the Mississippi Department ofTransportation for its approval. He said the board should be readyto advertise for bids on the project as soon as the state give itsOK.

* Massengill said the state Health Department has informed himthat a second dead bird in Brookhaven tested positive for West Niledisease. The bird was found on Sept. 15.

* Police Chief Pap Henderson informed board members of plans touse the vacant lot at the intersection of Brookway Boulevard andHighway 51 for an upcoming tent revival featuring evangelist theRev. R.W. Schambach.

Henderson said the revival would be going on about a month, butSchambach would not be in attendance each night. The chief said hewould be meeting with local sponsors at Greenville Baptist Churchto get more details about the revival.

Under the city’s permit system, no board action was needed lastnight. Following concerns about other religious activity on citystreets, though, City Attorney Joe Fernald advised caution due tothe expected use of a sound system during the revival.

* Massengill advised aldermen the state Department ofEnvironmental Quality would be conducting dioxin sampling at theold Escambia Wood Treatment plant this week. DEQ contractors willalso be conducting sampling and air monitoring activities when twomiles of the creosote plant that closed in the early 1990s.

* The Red Cross is looking for a location in Brookhaven to setup a grocery distribution operation, Massengill told aldermen lastnight. Brookhaven was one of several cities selected.

“It would be like they’re shopping but have no charge to them,”Massengill said.

Massengill said a 10,000-square-foot building is needed andasked the board for suggestions.

* A request by Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell to go intoexecutive session to discuss an economic development project forthe city was rejected last night. Fernald said he knew of noprovision to allow the closed meeting.

Maxwell said the project involves about 40 to 50 families comingto Brookhaven from New Orleans. Fellow aldermen advised Maxwell totalk to the mayor after the meeting and the board could take actionlater if needed.

When questioned after last night’s meeting, Maxwell offered fewadditional details. He said he would know more about the projectlater in the week.