Eau de Jackson: Teachers, restaurateurs call on politicians to work together

On the same day, in uncoordinated events, Jackson restaurateurs and public school teachers sent the same message to local and state political leaders – resolve the ongoing water issues in the state capitol that have leads to boil water advisories.

The Mississippi Educators’ Association said the water crisis is impacting the learning ability of students in the city of Jackson.

“When the water supply system fails, JPS schools are forced to switch to online learning, which destabilizes student learning environments and puts increased economic pressure on families who must now choose between quitting work or hiring childcare if that’s an option,” a position from the MAE said the newspaper published on Monday. “Additionally, with the unplanned transition to online learning, access to free and discounted breakfast and lunch becomes an additional challenge for students.”

MAE said it “connected” with Jackson residents at various locations and through a phone survey and found that more than 90% of residents experienced tap water issues at the home and at school. All said they had spent funds to purchase bottled water.

The DEA urged Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba “to issue a proclamation declaring that addressing the ongoing water crisis and securing safe and reliable access to water in Jackson will become the first priority of the administration”. The local government should draw up a plan, detailing the costs, to solve the problem.

The DEA also called on the Legislature and Heads of State to commit substantial funds from the $1.8 billion in COVID-19 financial assistance received from the federal government to address the water crisis. .

MAE said: “The composition of the system is dangerous. Lead, galvanized, and cast iron pipes make up much of the city’s infrastructure. These aging pipes made of hazardous and degraded materials will continue to stymie Jackson’s development efforts if not addressed.

Also on Monday, about 45 restaurant owners and managers sent a letter to Governor Tate Reeves, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann, Chairman Philip Gunn, Lumumba, members of the Jackson City Council and members of the County Board of Supervisors. of Hinds saying the constant boiling of water advisories and sometimes interruptions to the water supply were unsustainable. They asked political leaders to put aside any differences and work together. So far, state and local leaders have been unable to reach agreement on the water issues of the largest and state capital.

At a press conference at the Iron Horse Grill, a local restaurant, about 20 restaurateurs raised their hands when asked if they had been contacted about moving from Jackson to the suburbs.

Stakeholders said some restaurants have to spend between $500 and $700 a day on ice, bottled water and other items, such as canned or bottled soft drinks, to replace fountain soda that is not available without pressurized water.

It needs to be done, said Pat Fontaine, executive director of the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association, despite very tight profit margins caused in part by the current level of inflation and labor and supply shortages.

The letter was described “as the first formal attempt to draw attention to this crisis”.

The Legislature approved what is expected to be $25 million of the $1.8 billion in federal funds received by the state to match the $25 million the city of Jackson received in federal funds to deal with the issues water and sewage. But those funds have been described as a small fraction of the money needed to deal with an aging water and sewage system. It was estimated that it would cost over $1 billion to repair the outdated and worn-out infrastructure system.

Additionally, Jackson Mayor Lumumba said the ongoing boil water advisories were caused by other issues, such as a lack of trained personnel to operate Jackson’s complex surface water system. .

“For reasons of fairness and practicality, if no solution is imminent, if it is to be the status quo, can restaurateurs expect to be compensated for their additional operating costs and lost revenue? ?” asked the letter. They asked if they could get a reduction on their water bill from the city of Jackson or a state income tax credit.

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