On March 27 Tony Yarber, Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi declared an infrastructure emergency, which expired after seven days. Soon after, Mayor Yarber signed a second emergency declaration declaring a 30-day emergency.
This second declaration has yet to be approved by the City Council, who are concerned that they had no prior knowledge of Mayor Yarber’s initial emergency declaration.
Mayor Yarber intends to use the state of emergency for Jackson’s aging infrastructure to claim funds that are otherwise unavailable, and he is believed to be the first mayor in the country to declare an emergency for infrastructure that is not related to a natural disaster or catastrophic failure.
The Clarion-Ledger reports:
“Yarber said the city will seek “quick release” funds through the U.S. Department of Transportation for failed or failing bridges as well as FEMA and state funds in the form of loans and grants if avaliable.
“We have to find funding somewhere,” Yarber said. “It’s either going to come on the back of citizens paying their water and sewer bill through water and sewer rates or through federal assistance.”
City officials say there have been 75 water main breaks in the city of Jackson so far this year. The city has been plagued by infrastructure problems for decades, but it has reached a critical point following severe winter weather.”
This is an unprecedented political move for Jackson, Mississippi to address prevailing water utility infrastructure management issues.
The granting of Federal funds under these circumstances would set an enormous national precedent, so Inframanage.com doesn’t like Mayor Yaber’s odds of achieving his aim in declaring this emergency.
Clearly Jackson, Mississippi has some long term infrastructure management and infrastructure funding issues. One of the advantages of integrated infrastructure management planning is it allows consideration of:
- required service levels,
- demand for services,
- risks associated with the assets and failure of assets
- optimised lifecycle management tactics for the management of the assets
- long term asset expenditure requirements
- long term asset and service funding requirements
- inter-generational equity issues associated with the funding of infrastructure assets
When this type of analysis has been completed, then political representatives can lead the community in the discussion of actual requirements, associated long term costs and funding options.
The discussion around funding options may or may not include federal or state grants, co-funding or other assistance. It may also include changes in tariffs, the use of loans, and or the use of bonds to fund required infrastructure and services.
It will be interesting to observe how the Jackson, Mississippi ‘infrastructure emergency’ plays out, and if it leads to any changes in the discussion around infrastructure funding.
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