Columbus Public Works in desperate need of replacing outdated vehicles and equipment

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – Tuesday night’s Columbus City Council meeting wrapped up with a presentation from Public Works Director Casey Bush about his department’s dire need for new equipment.

“The fact that the public works department is underfunded, understaffed, and has equipment that is outdated and needs repairs is not a surprise,” says Mayor Keith Gaskin.

Bush went before the city council with a list of all the department’s vehicles and machinery that need to be fixed or replaced.

“With the equipment that we do have, I’m afraid that it’s going to get to the point that just routine maintenance or trying to keep them working, we’ll lose (more) money,” he says.

Of the city’s three boom trucks, Bush says two need significant maintenance work and couldn’t go a week without one of them ending up in the shop. He says they also have multiple excavators that need work and two of their riding mowers do not have functioning engines.

“A good piece of equipment that we use, six to seven years, that’s the time to try to get rid of and replace that equipment,” Bush says.

The public works director estimates that some of their machines date back to 2002.

“We’re using one backhoe trying to take care of six wards and that’s a hard thing to do when I have different operators waiting on a piece of equipment to do their job,” Bush says.

The condensed list of priority items and repairs that he presented to the city council adds up to almost $400,000.

“I’m in conversations with members of the (Lowndes County) Board of Supervisors and also our legislators in Jackson to do everything we can to get as much ARPA money to help in this area,” Mayor Gaskin says.

The city is exploring multiple options like leasing equipment and bringing in temporary outside help. Bush says they need to act soon before the public works department completely loses the ability to prevent small issues from becoming big problems.

“To make sure these ditches are being cleaned out on an annual basis, maybe once or twice a year,” Mayor Gaskin says. “Making sure they have the equipment to do it properly. And what my hope is, to also find the resources to fix some of these issues permanently.”

City engineer Kevin Stafford is putting together the initial numbers on the cost of hiring temporary help to come in and clear some of the ditches in Columbus.

He will present his findings at the city council meeting on March 15.

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