BY BRIAN JONES
District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith held a community meeting at New Beginnings Full Gospel Church on Oct. 9 to discuss drainage and sewer projects in the east side of his district. Officials from the City of Columbus, Columbus Light and Water, East Lowndes Water Association and the Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District were all on hand to explain progress and answer questions.
About 40 people attended.
Engineer Kevin Stafford of Neel-Schaffer, who is also the city engineer for Columbus, described efforts to improve drainage in areas off of Highway 69.
“This will start at Nashville Ferry Road, wind along Gregory, cross over Chandler, come under Highway 69 right where Columbus Rubber and Gasket is, and basically wind up to the waste water treatment plant,” Stafford said. “We originally started that back in 2013, but the other three phases had wetlands involved. The Corps of Engineers asked us to stop and delineate those wetlands to figure out that environmental impact moving forward.
“We eventually had those restrictions removed in 2015,” he said. “We were still in the water for about a year and a half trying to get those regulations removed. We were arguing that we were simply cleaning a ditch, we weren’t impacting the environment.”
Stafford said they are working on getting easements for the affected property now, but have been unable to get two.
“The TRVWMD will actually do the work, and they will do it on behalf of the county,” he said. “The county has agreed even though most of this property is in the city. It winds through 19 different properties. We’re basically looking for two people right now. They are probably people who don’t live here.”
“We have been working on that for a long time,” Smith said. “That project impacts a lot of people who live in that area. The lack of drainage, especially in the winter months, is really affecting the quality of life in these communities. We’re doing everything we can to try to make sure we can get all the documents in place so we can move forward with this project.”
“The lack of drainage is really affecting sewage in people’s homes,” he said, “especially during the winter months when the water table is high. One problem creates another problem. The lack of drainage is creating this sewage problem. We’ve been talking with CLW to talk about maybe creating some quality sewage service in this area.”
Engineer John Cunningham, also of Neel-Schaffer, spoke about Columbus Light and Water attempts to expand sewer to residents in the area of South Pickensville Road and Eauclaire Estates.
“We’ve been looking at what can be done in the area since about 2013,” Cunningham said. “That area has about 62 residents. That’s not very many. At that point we were looking at a low pressure sewer system. That involves putting individual grinders and lift stations at each residence and running a low pressure sewer main down the road to a larger sewer main. All that would pump back to the City of Columbus for them to take it and treat it. At that time we were looking at a Community Development Block Grant, which was about 60/40 funding. At that time the local contribution came out to where each household would be paying $55 a month for sewer, which is kind of high.
“We didn’t have a lot of participation,” he said. “That’s probably because of the high cost. At that part we moved on and started looking in other areas. Moving forward we have got to have more participants. It’s not going to be a feasible project unless we get more participation. That will get that cost per household down if we can spread it out.”
Cunningham also said residents needed to look at setting up a rural sewer district.
“We’ve been fighting these battles for a long time, but we haven’t given up on those projects,” Smith said. “This starts by you helping yourself and getting involved. You’ve got to take some initiative. By getting more people involved you can reduce the cost and allow us to go forward. We’re also going to have to create a sewer district. We need some of the retired people who are here to step up and work with the board of supervisors and try to create a team of people who can lead from inside the community.”