Support: Thompson Willing to Work with City on Water and Crime Issues
By Nell Luter Floyd
Congressman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) said he’s willing to work with the city of Jackson to tackle its water woes as well as crime issues during a city council meeting that focused on reducing crime.
The congressman’s willingness to help is what stood out most from the meeting that lasted three hours and five minutes for council member Virgi Lindsay.
“The most valuable information came from Congressman Thompson, that he is willing to help us not only with public safety issues but also water issues,” said Lindsay, who represents Ward 7. “I look forward to the city pursuing those opportunities.”
Thompson, who chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security, was among leaders from city, state and federal law enforcement to local ministers assembled to discuss how to reduce crime. The meeting on May 4 was held at New Horizon Church instead of City Hall because the church could accommodate more people.
The city of Jackson has received a federal disaster declaration because of the winter storm and that will enable it to apply for funding to make repairs to the water treatment system and also for mitigation, which would be for anticipated problems, Thompson said. “That means if another ice storm comes and you know something is going to break, we’ll fix it now,” he said.
City leaders are still determining how to fund necessary improvements to the water treatment system and how much funding is needed. The entire city was under a boil water notice for a month after the storms in February caused equipment to malfunction and left thousands without running water.
The Mississippi Legislature during the 2021 session authorized $3 million for the city to make repairs to its water treatment system after the city requested $47 million.
The city plans to apply for a $27.9 million loan to fund repairs at its two water treatment plants. The city council at its April 27 meeting authorized Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba to file an application for the Drinking Water Systems Improvements Revolving Loan Fund Program through the Local Governments and Rural Water Systems Improvements Board. The loan would have a 20-year repayment schedule at an interest rate of 1.95 percent.
The city received $44 million from the coronavirus relief bill that could be used for the repairs but Lumumba has said much of that money will go to coronavirus-related expenses.
New legislation introduced in Congress also offers hope for the city.
U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith introduced the Emergency Water Infrastructure Act that would provide the city with assistance through a combination of loans, loan forgiveness, and grants. Funding for the legislation would come from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Economic Development Authority.
Another possibility for funding is a $2 trillion infrastructure plan introduced by President Joe Biden
Thompson encouraged city of Jackson and Hinds County leaders to work together when local ministers presented the idea of turning Hardy Junior High School into a youth center. He said the federal government doesn’t want to duplicate services.
He said the federal government has funds available to purchase equipment for law enforcement but an application has to be made to receive the funding.
“I encourage the city fathers and city mothers to do what you need to do so you don’t duplicate services,” Thompson said. “We train, we buy equipment every day. But you have to make an application for the equipment, and if you don’t, then when Birmingham makes an application, they get it. When New Orleans makes an application, they get it. I encourage you to look at that grants.gov website, and just go from there.”
Should city leaders call for federal law enforcement to intervene, they have to be prepared to let them do their work, Thompson said. “You can’t say, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t have gone down that street,’” he said.
City council member Ashby Foote of Ward 1 said the meeting showed him that citizens are interested in reducing violence.
“Even though we had that storm that came through that day before through the event at six o’clock, we had a good turnout,” he said. “We had some good input from the clergy, good input from Congressman Thompson who talked about grant opportunities available through Homeland Security and Congress.
“We had representation from the Department of Justice and other law enforcement agencies, including the Bureau of Narcotics and Hinds County Sheriff. It gave us good avenues to pursue to get additional funding and police.”