JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – Gov. Tate Reeves has extended the state of emergency over Jackson’s water system through November 22, saying that additional time is needed for a transition period between state managers and a private operator expected to be brought on to oversee plant operations.
The order, which was extended in mid-September and was slated to expire on November 17.
“Jackson’s mayor has announced that the city will have a private operator in place by [then]… Recognizing this, I have decided to end the emergency on November 22, to allow for a five-day transition period between the state’s management team and the chosen private operator,” Reeves said in a Friday afternoon statement. “At that point, the state of emergency must, by statute, end as the water system can be managed solely by local control, as has been insisted on upon by the city of Jackson.”
It’s unclear whether the city will have a manager in place by that date. “That’s the plan,” said Jackson Director of Communications Melissa Faith Payne. “It remains to be seen whether we will or we won’t.”
The governor issued an emergency declaration on August 30, allowing the state to step in and take control of the capital city’s water system, after equipment failures at the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant left tens of thousands of people without service.
It all hasn’t been smooth sailing, though. In recent weeks, the mayor and governor have squabbled over who will manage the plant in the long-term.
Both the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and the city have issued requests to bring on a third-party company to take over management of its two water treatment plants, well water facilities and elevated storage tanks.
MEMA issued a request for qualifications for firms seeking the one-year management contract on October 14. Days later, Jackson issued its own request, with Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba telling the press his administration did not have a say in how the state’s RFQ was drawn up.
“How on earth do we have a 65-page document that’s issued by the state on Monday and the city issues a similar document?” he asked at a turkey pardoning last week. “And less than 48 hours later, the city issued virtually the same document… but they have not looked at it or seen it. That’s just not true.”
Responses for both Jackson’s and MEMA’s proposals are due November 7. Representatives from eight firms interested in replying to Jackson’s RFP participated in a walk-through of the Curtis plant earlier this week, city officials tell WLBT.
Meanwhile, Reeves touted the state’s efforts in restoring the city’s water. “Since I first declared a state of emergency… the state has invested nearly $13 million to prop up Jackson’s failing water system, distribute water and restore clean running water to residents,” Reeves wrote. “Over this time, the state of Mississippi entered the [Curtis plant], identified the rampant issues that existed due to years of neglect, and immediately began repair operations.”
Water pressure was restored for most residents as of September 4. A boil water notice that had been in place since July 29 was lifted on September 15.
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