Columbus officials on Monday asked the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors for $400,000 of American Rescue Plan Act funds to put towards engineering fees and planning for its stormwater remediation project.
It represented the city’s first formal request for county ARPA funds.
Waggoner Engineering Project Manager Stephen Thompson said the money would help the city get the ball rolling on some “low hanging fruit” from its ambitious stormwater remediation program.
The city has earmarked about $3 million of its $5 million in federal pandemic relief funds to stormwater and wastewater issues. It had previously wanted $3 million from the county, but last week the supervisors said that wasn’t happening.
“We have some low hanging fruit projects, but we have to have the design work to see what impact those projects will have,” Thompson said. “We don’t want to just move the water faster to some other area and cause an area that’s not flooding right now to flood.”
Thompson said the money would cover about half of the design and planning costs.
“The planning is going to cost $365,000, and we will put that on the agenda for the city to do (Tuesday),” he said. “The design is about $440,000. … That is for areas we can tackle right away.”
Once the planning is done, the city can pursue other revenue sources through the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service or Federal Emergency Management Agency Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities grant programs, he said.
“We’ve done this process with Madison County and the city of Canton,” he said. “This is a tried and true process that we’re doing, if you’ll just give us a little time we can do the same thing in Columbus.”
Carol Jackson of Waggoner Engineering said the study would be the foundation for a stormwater program.
“This is more data analytics and identifying where the problems are manifesting,” she said. “We need to see where (the water) is coming from. For example, from my brief assessment the problems in McCrary Creek are connected to Magbee and Black Creek. Those are mostly outside of the city limits.”
District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks said the city’s request would be added to the list with the rural water associations that are also asking for support.
“I’m not trying to be insensitive,” Brooks said. “But if we submit 10 projects (to the state) and none of them get funded, it’s not on us. We don’t have an obligation to do anything. We are doing the very best that we can, and if they say it’s not funded I’m not going to go take county money to make it work.”
County Administrator Jay Fisher said he would add the city’s request to the list of potential water projects, and it would be evaluated in the future.
Brian Jones is the local government reporter for Columbus and Lowndes County.