Infrastructure improvements continue in Long Beach
A lot of money is flowing into and through the City of Long Beach and its infrastructure. Anyone who’s driven through the Friendly City the past few months has seen the fruits of years of labor by local leaders to get the funding needed to improve roadways and replace the City’s outdated sewer system, which has been costing the City and its taxpayers over the years.
“Any time there is a sewer line that breaks or goes down, that costs the City anywhere from quarter-of-a-million to $400,000,” Long Beach Alderman-at-Large Donald Frazer said.
HCUA Infrastructure Project
A $4 million dollar project, funded by the RESTORE Act (BP) and local funds, to overhaul the City’s aging and outdated sewer system, namely the sewer transmission man that serves the majority of Long Beach, will help alleviate this problem, while cutting costs in the long run. Work began back in August of last year and is expected to continue until April of this year.
“The Harrison County Utility Authority (HCUA) project on the City’s main sewer lines runs from Nicholson Avenue north to Allen Road and west out through the Industrial Park towards Pass Christian. They’re updating from the Treatment Plant to the Lift Station,” Frazer said.
When complete, nearly 14,000 feet of sewer pipe will be replaced in Long Beach, upgrading the City’s sewer lines from a piping composed of defective material to something that will last over time.
“The PVC being used will last for years and years, unlike the [old] terracotta where the gas is eating it from the inside,” Frazer said. “That’s where it becomes brittle and fails.”
This is in addition to several flood mitigation projects carried out already by the City over the past five years.
“We started in 2018,” Frazer said. “Most of that work was on our canals, our two major canals that run east to west. Since then, we have had several updates to the different drainage basins. For example, Mount Bass, the Rita Basin. That’s where the improvements have come.”
Meanwhile, work continues on the Mount Bass Basin, on the western side of Alexander Road, where the main drainage pipes are being upgraded.
“I want to say the last time they were done was in the 1960s,” Frazer said.
When complete, the Mount Bass Basin drains will triple in size and capacity.
“Just by tripling it, you’re seeing that rain water and flood water able to move that much more quickly, which will help a lot of the houses in that area,” Frazer said.
Work on the Mount Bass Basin started last fall and is expected to wrap by the end of March, and Frazer said he believes all of the City’s flood mitigation projects will be done well in time for the City’s next anticipated FEMA Flood Audit, expected to take place some time in 2023.
“What does that boil down to? What does it do for the citizens? Not only does it prevent your home from flooding, [but we’re also] working through the Building Department on our flood rating for the city,” Frazer said. “What does that mean? FEMA, with your private flood insurance, gives cities discounts for the work they do - not only education, standards of construction, things like that - but cities receive discounts based on their flood rating.”
“Having maps posted, having education out there that new people to the area or existing people in the area can learn about ways they can better fortify their homes…what that means, in turn, is savings in your pocket,” Frazer said.
Frazer said it also possibly means more businesses will choose to settle in the city.
“You have two identical properties, and you have a business looking at both of them. Everything is identical, but one city has a bigger discount on their flood insurance. These are the types of things big businesses will look at when they come in. They look at A to Z,” Frazer said.
Better Roads and Roadway Connections
Long Beach’s recent selection to receive allocation of millions of dollars in grant money from the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) is also paving the way for major infrastructure improvements within the city.
The $16.8 million dollar grant will help fund the first phase of a five-lane roadway along Beatline Parkway, improving connectivity from Highway 90 to Interstate 10, and linking Long Beach, Pass Christian and other parts of Harrison County. It’s one of three infrastructure projects selected in Mississippi to be awarded through the U.S. DOT’s Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability & Equity (RAISE) grant program, which overall, has earmarked a total of $38.8 million dollars for the state’s three selected projects.
“These improvements are imperative to our growing tourism industry, supporting the new businesses calling South Mississippi home, and creating safe evacuation routes from severe weather. These brick-and-mortar improvements are the kind of infrastructure that Mississippians want and need,” said U.S. Congressman Steven Palazzo, who was among the state lawmakers who helped secure the funds for this project.
Updating the Fiber Optic Highway
On another front, AT&T is continuing its work providing major upgrades to fiber optics lines throughout the city, which will provide faster Internet, cable and phone service in Long Beach, once the project is complete. AT&T began work back in September, starting on the west end of the city. Crews are now upgrading connectivity and service in the east side of Long Beach, with an expected completion date slated in June of this year.
Frazer says the City has been working with AT&T and Sparklight on the project, and he believes the improved Internet capabilities the project is providing will also help attract more businesses to the area.
The Big Picture
Frazer said that, in the short term, there is a price to pay for all the upgrades and growth.
“I understand the frustration. Growth takes time and patience and 100-percent of team effort – and, when I say team effort, it’s not the City officials who are just making these decisions. We live with these decisions on an everyday basis,” Frazer said.
The City of Long Beach Community Affairs Director Jenny Levens agrees.
“During the construction process, there will be road closures, detours and anticipated utility outages,” Levens said. “We ask everyone to please be patient with crews as this project progress. It is a large undertaking that requires coordination from everyone, including the public.”
“The good news is this will give people peace of mind when they see all this construction going on, knowing the City’s infrastructure can handle the new houses coming on, the development of new businesses coming into town. This is laying the foundation for smart growth,” Frazer said.
Updates on construction, detours and other project information is available on the City of Long Beach Mayor’s Office Facebook page.