GUEST VIEW: Public works addresses streets, wastewater treatment

Hugh Smith

This is one of a series of guest columns by City of Meridian department heads.

The public works department has spent the last three years focused on upgrading the city’s aging infrastructure. We have completed several in-house projects that have improved streets and sidewalks as well as some major capital improvement projects at both the freshwater and wastewater treatment plants.

Most of our in-house projects have been in the street maintenance division. In the spring of 2018, we completed our first phase of in-house downtown revitalization projects. This included several blocks of street overlays and the replacement of sidewalks.

We are now looking forward to the Sela Ward Parkway Project that is being funded through MDOT’s TAP program and a special appropriation from the Mississippi State Legislature. Federal and state funds earmarked for this project total close to $1.7 million.

Another project worth mentioning is our recently instituted Pavement Preservation Program. The activities that make up this operation include the following: crack sealing, neighborhood paving, and sidewalk reconstruction. 

The cost of roadway maintenance projects that require milling and overlaying have increased dramatically in the last 20 years. It has become impossible for cities with moderate budgets to mill and overlay their streets on consistent bases. Cities can no longer rely on milling and overlay as a means to have good roads; they must make a concerted effort to extend the life of their existing roads.

The completion of the negotiation process with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set the activities outlined in an agreement between the city of Meridian and the United States government referred to as a consent decree in motion. This agreement has an estimated price tag of $127 million and a 20 year time period. Violations of the Clean Water Act are the driving force behind the agreement, but the required improvements to the city’s wastewater collection system, wastewater treatment facility and operational and maintenance practices will prove to have both economic and civic value in the years to come.

Prior to the consent decree, the city had already begun some capital improvement projects at both the freshwater and wastewater treatment facilities. These projects total close to $20 million.

They include improvements such as new generators that can provide enough alternative power to keep these facilities operational during major weather or other events that cause electricity to not be available. They also include improvements to key operational processes such as the filters at the North Meridian Water Treatment Plant and new blowers at the Wastewater Treatment Facility.

Meridian’s Public Works Department has also been busy winning awards as well. In 2017 we were recognized by Mississippi 811 as a leader in the Calling Before You Dig national program. Last year we also received the Water Treatment Plant of the Year award from the Alabama Mississippi Section of the American Water Works Association.

Hugh Smith is public works director for the City of Meridian.

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