Property owner believes Jackson should fix sinkholes near his building

Public works maintains it’s not city’s responsibility because they’re on private property
Published: Oct. 28, 2020 at 10:35 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - For three years, a Jackson property owner has watched sinkholes grow near one of his parking lots on Ellis Avenue, making it difficult for customers to get to the businesses there.

Jim Webb said he’s heard complaints from his tenants, their shoppers, and has tried since 2017 to get the city of Jackson to fix it.

“We’re not in the floodplain. It’s a matter of maintenance of the drainage. And that’s the city’s responsibility to take care of their creek," Webb said.

Those four sinkholes are located above a culvert which carries storm water into Lynch Creek, well beyond Webb’s property.

Debris blocks that culvert, Webb said, after making several trips underground to see for himself.

As a result, water backs up into the parking lot and seeps through cracks in the culvert, further eroding the dirt underneath the asphalt.

In January, the creek across the street from those sinkholes flooded, carrying waves of water and debris across Ellis Avenue.

Webb said that’s happened twice in recent years.

“It’s hard to keep tenants. When they go underwater, they’re leaving. It’s over with. And I feel guilty renting to the next person because they might go underwater,” Webb said.

That already happened once this year.

The Dollhouse Dance Factory closed its doors after six inches of floodwater seeped inside.

Webb says he’s reached out to the city repeatedly, but has been told each time that the area in question is located on private property, despite city drainage issues leading to problems on that property.

The sinkholes sit on an area which is part of the former South Port Shopping Center behind Webb’s building, and Webb has an easement to go to and from his building.

When asked whether it’s the city’s responsibility to repair the parking lot damage, Jackson Public Works Director Charles Williams said the city’s legal department would have to answer that.

“My interpretation is that anything outside of the right of way is not maintained by the city unless there is something dedicated in an easement or dedicated on the deed map for the property that would basically say that, hey, the city of Jackson or the municipality will be responsible for maintaining this particular structure," Williams said.

Webb said that the city originally installed the culvert decades ago to attract the South Port Shopping Center to that part of the city.

Williams told 3 On Your Side he has yet to see proof of that.

“I have not found any evidence of that of the city of Jackson, or at that particular time, even Hinds County, even if it was ever annexed that this, this pipe was installed by the city,” Williams said. “I have not found any information to lead to that. Now, if he has something that shows or can justify that, we’ll be happy to look at it.”

Williams said he hopes they will be able to reach a resolution through a possible collaboration with Webb and the South Port Shopping Center’s property owner, but it will require everyone coming to the table to meet with the city’s attorneys, too.

“If the property owner wants to come down and talk with us and our legal department about any type of remedies or mitigation that can be possibly collaborated with moving forward, I think the city be willing to listen to that," Williams said. “Anything that’s out of our right of way, and it’s not technically, you know, our responsibility, we have to be very cautious about how we make those repairs or spend taxpayers dollars.”

Webb, who first purchased those properties along Ellis Avenue nearly fifty years ago, said he doesn’t want to have to leave the city, but the drainage issues would have to resolved for him to stay.

“Right now the only thing I have on my side is 3 On Your Side and these voters going up and down Ellis Avenue," Webb said, pointing to the afternoon traffic. "There are a lot of them and every one of them knows about these holes.”

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