Magnolia to use $2.2M in federal aid on water infrastructure; Council condemns 3 unsightly propertiesby J.D. Bailey on 08/27/21
With half of the city’s scheduled $2.2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds already issued, Magnolia Mayor Parnell Vann announced Thursday that its portion of federal COVID relief monies will be used to remove nearly all of Magnolia’s outdated cast iron mainline water system and replace it with synthetic, non-corrosive pipes.
The new water flow plan comes on the heels of a major replacement project already underway in the city’s central and southwestern regions to remedy a corrosion and water discoloration problem first reported in 2019. The city last year determined that decades-old cast iron lines were causing the issues.
Initially, main lines set for replacement stretched from portions of Lawton Circle to South Jefferson Street, but with Thursday’s announcement, now almost all of the city will receive new non-corrosive, non-metallic lines, according to the mayor.
“We’re going to replace the cast iron that’s left and put plastic (lines) in,” said Vann. “There will only be a small, small portion of the city left with iron after that -- but not much.”
The city official noted that areas south of E. North Street will receive most of the new lines. That portion of the city includes much of Wards I and II, but all city districts are included in the project.
“We’re going to get some of all of your wards,” said Vann while addressing Magnolia City Council members.
In all, the city’s water infrastructure investment could total around $4.5 million. The original phase of the water project was approved in July 2020 by the Magnolia City Council and funded by extending and refinancing a 1999 Water Resource Bond. On Thursday, the mayor stated that $1.1 million of the city’s federal relief aid had already been issued and the remaining $1.1 million should be coming soon. He also noted that all American Rescue Plan Act monies must be used on these types of investments.
“This money has got to be used on infrastructure, and that’s where we need it right now,” he added.
Provisions in the relief aid package also state that the funds must be used by a certain date, which eliminates the option for cities and counties to simply deposit the funds and wait to use them. City Treasurer Kim Newell on Thursday stated that she thought the federally-issued monies must be used by “2022 or so” and must follow state guidelines for spending.
The mayor noted that with most city sidewalk and street paving projects properly maintained, addressing municipal water issues was a top priority.
“The hardest part of this job is keeping good, clean drinking water,” he said.
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was approved for passage in March by the United States Congress. The $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package earmarked $362 billion in direct funding payments to every city and county in the United States. The amounts dispersed to each community were tabulated based on population.
The federal aid package is the same measure that issued $1,400 stimulus checks to individual Americans earlier this year.
The Magnolia City Council on Thursday voted unanimously to condemn three local 'nuisance' properties that have become dangerous to the community.
The homes at 1514 Blackberry Street, 418 S. Pine Street, and 1138 Hazel Circle were all on the chopping block this month. According to the condemnation resolution passed Thursday, a certified letter will be sent to the condemned property owners informing them that they have 30 days to rehabilitate or remove the dilapidated structures. If these conditions are not met, the city will begin demolishing the structures and bill the owners for the costs.
If the municipality does not receive payment for the removal within 45 days, it will then auction off any debris or materials from the structures to reimburse itself for the razing efforts, according to the resolution. If the proceeds don’t cover the city’s incurred costs, the Magnolia city attorney will file a lien on the properties.
A fourth property at 616 Smith Street was initially on the list Thursday for condemnation, but Mayor Parnell Vann said the address had just been sold to a new owner. The city official, however, noted that, if the property was not cleaned up or cleared, the condemnation process would begin again.
In other City Council news:
- A resolution was passed to fund the purchase of a new dump truck at the Magnolia Street Department. The project was previously submitted for bid, and the purchase price came back at just over $85,000. The exact cost of the new truck was not stated publicly Thursday, but it will be funded by the Magnolia Street Department budget, according to Mayor Parnell Vann. The purchase of the new vehicle is not expected to strap the city agency for cash.
“The street department makes money for the city,” said the mayor.
To help offset the cost of the new truck, two former street department dump trucks were recently sold for a total of $35,000. The new truck is also expected to have a service life of 15-20 years, according to Magnolia Street Department head Jerry Lewis.
“I think this is a good investment for us down the road,” he said.
- A water billing ordinance was passed Thursday for “housekeeping” purposes, according to Mayor Parnell Vann. In it, the document re-stated the city’s charging and late-fee policy.
The mayor explicitly stated three times Thursday that water rates are not going up and that the water ordinance was a “paper matter” only.
For any billing questions or concerns, Magnolia water customers are encouraged to calmly call the Magnolia Utilities office at 870-234-2022. Vann stated Thursday that any callers using profanity or rude language on their water calls will not be tolerated.
He also stated that, if a customer’s water bill is lost in the mail or accidentally misplaced and he or she is not commonly late on bill payments, the water office will work to resolve the issue without penalty. However, if a customer in this situation uses obscene remarks to office personnel, the issue will not be handled the same way, according to the city official.