LUCEDALE, Miss. (WKRG) – A portion of Cowart Street in Lucedale is scheduled to be repaved early next week after being torn up from a water leak.

The city water department had to cut through a section of the road to fix a water leak on Thursday, March 9. The road was closed for about five hours as crews made the repair on a section between the two entrances to the city sports complex, in front of a car wash. The street reopened that afternoon with cones warning drivers of a crater in the middle.

On Wednesday, March 22, public works staff closed the street for about two hours to begin repairing the section. The street rode much smoother after with a slight gravel speed bump filling the dent.

The Board of Alderman gave approval Tuesday for the section of road to be repaved for about $3,000. The contractor plans to start work Monday, March 27, weather permitting.

The city, along with George County, has struggled over the past year to find paving companies that will come and complete projects in one stage while staying within the budget. Last fall, the city canceled a contract without paying in full when a contractor didn’t finish the asphalt overlay work and never returned phone calls. Weeks were added on to the expected completion date as public works tried to find a new company with asphalt prices up by 50% over the past two years.

Lucedale has also struggled with finding the precise location of its water lines. Staff spend hours reading maps, using radar and other detection tools to find the pipes to make their own repairs and map out areas for companies installing gas and fiber optic lines. The measurements can be off by a few inches or the pipes take an unexpected direction, leading to damage.

On Thursday, March 16, a water main was hit by a boring company doing utility work on West Frontage Road. Water was shut off to homes and businesses in the area for about five hours. When the main was fixed, the area was under a boil water advisory until the next day.

The city is using part of its $775,000 in federal COVID-19 relief funds to install a new geographic information systems (GIS) that will give precise mapping and locations of the water lines to cut down on the staff time and room for error. 

Water Superintendent Kevin Cochran told aldermen Tuesday that the calls to Mississippi 811 have doubled over the past few years as the population increases and more digging is completed to install utility lines to new neighborhoods. It is now fielding around 800 calls per year from the county.