Columbus City Council on Tuesday approved spending about $408,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding to replace a troublesome culvert on Southside.
The culvert in question is at Second Street South, between 10th Avenue and the railroad tracks, adjacent to the Columbus Housing Authority office.
Zach Foster, an engineer with the Neel-Schaffer firm, said the existing culvert is old and too small to handle the volume of stormwater that passes through it.
“Several months ago we had a large rain event and water topped Second Street,” Foster said. “It undermined a portion of the road.”
When fixing that problem, Public Works and Columbus Light and Water both said the primary concern was that there was both a large water line and a large sewer line running under that part of the road. That water line is a 20-inch line from the south water treatment plant to the water tower downtown.
“The risk is if the culvert were not replaced and upsized to better handle the flows to and through it, the water would wash the road out worse and undermine that water main,” he said. “Then the city could potentially be without water until they got it repaired.”
Foster said the old records indicate that the culvert under the road is 4 feet by 6 feet, and it is also congested.
“We tried to camera the pipe and it is full of debris,” he said. “We couldn’t even get the camera through it.”
The new culvert will be 4 feet by 8 feet, he said.
The replacement culvert will cost $40,250. The low bid on the replacement project was from Burns Dirt at $368,000.
Foster said the culvert was bid out separately because there was a lead time of about eight weeks between ordering it and getting it on the ground here in Columbus.
The cost will come out of the city’s ARPA funding, Mayor Keith Gaskin said Wednesday in his regular press conference at City Hall. The city will pay for the work up front, and then ask for dollar-for-dollar matching funds from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality after the fact.
“From what I heard at the Mississippi Municipal League conference last week is that money we use like that is eligible for matching funds,” Gaskin said. “The project is shovel-ready, and they’re smiling on shovel-ready projects. It’s also an emergency situation for the city. If that were to collapse we could quickly lose water (service) in the city.”
If the city receives matching funds, that money will cover the whole cost of the project, said Chief Financial Officer James Brigham. He said it was not clear whether any strings would be attached to how that reimbursement money was spent.
“We’ll check the MDEQ program to see if there’s any rules,” Brigham said.
Gaskin said he would like reimbursement money to be sunk back into drainage issues.
“Even if it is legal to use it someplace else, I will encourage the council to use the money in watershed, flooding or sewage,” Gaskin said.
Brian Jones is the local government reporter for Columbus and Lowndes County.