Restaurant owners contact city council over Jackson’s water issues.

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – Jeff Good was unaware of Jackson’s latest boil water advisory issued last week until his customers started asking him about it.

Good, co-owner of three North Jackson restaurants, was one of many restaurateurs who spoke at a Wednesday city council meeting where they expressed frustration with Jackson’s ongoing water issues.

For his part, Good said the city’s lack of transparency is troubling, especially when the city did not notify residents that a boil water advisory had been issued for about a day after it was issued. been issued by the state.

“There was nothing on any of the city websites, and there wasn’t until 30 I believe,” he said. “And right now, if you go to the website and the Facebook page…it’s been three days since there was a post about the boil water advisory.”

“The speed at which these things are happening and the fact that none of us really understand just how bad things are going is of great concern to all of us as citizens and business people.”

Late Friday afternoon, the Mississippi State Department of Health issued a boil water advisory for all surface water connections due to high turbidity found in samples taken at the OB Curtis water treatment plant.

Turbidity is the cloudiness of water. The cloudier the water, the more likely it is to contain pathogenic pathogens that are not killed during the treatment process.

The city issued its own boil water advisory at 4:53 p.m. Saturday.

Council members shared Good’s concerns, saying they too were left in the dark.

“Unfortunately, we found out about it through social media,” Ward 2 Councilor Angelique Lee said. “I asked several business owners to contact me and we began to conduct our own investigation.”

“That’s why transparency is so important in this line of work because we are the front line for voters.”

The council called a meeting of its ad hoc disaster preparedness response committee, in response to the city’s latest water crisis.

City Attorney Catoria Martin said there were numerous instances where the administration disagreed with the state’s decision to issue a boil water advisory and that it would discuss with the MSDH the lifting of the opinion.

“There are many times where we go back and forth, from a legal point of view, with the Ministry of Health… We have our experts, they have their experts, and so there are many times where we go back and forth in a 24-hour period where we might get them to change their minds. We may not get them to change their minds,” she explained.

Even so, Martin said he would be willing to create a mailing list to notify restaurant owners when advisories are issued.

Council members said they appreciated the city attorney’s thoughts, but said more needed to be done to keep the general public, as well as all businesses, informed.

“When people don’t have the opportunity and time to prepare, from our schools, on their way to our restaurant and our business community, then we are doing them a disservice,” the councilor said. Ward 6, Aaron Banks.

Banks said that as the city begins budget discussions, it needs to consider setting aside funds for an emergency response coordinator position.

“I think we have to seriously ensure that if there is some type of coordinator or emergency response team to ensure that communication is carried out and to ensure that we are as close as possible to be prepared,” he said.

Four restaurateurs, along with the executive director of the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association, spoke at Wednesday’s meeting.

The council and restaurant owners discussed the economic impact the city’s repeated water crises are having on potential and existing businesses, and noted that ongoing water issues could force current restaurants to close or from.

“We have businesses trying to stay afloat and not leave Jackson, and we have new businesses trying to come into Jackson and investing millions of dollars,” Lee said. “We definitely need transparency, so we can be transparent with our constituents.”

Jackson has experienced numerous water issues over the past two years, including the winter water crisis in February 2021, which left some guests without water for weeks. After that, an electrical fire broke out at the Curtis factory, once again shutting off water production.

And in June of this year, equipment failures at the plant once again led to a drop in production, prompting the city to issue a water conservation advisory and another boil water advisory. some water.

Since June 16, at least four boil water advisories have been issued for the 43,000 connections served by the City’s surface water treatment facilities.

For many restaurants, these water outages mean more expense and less business.

Good says his restaurants spend between $200 and $500 a day when the city is under a boil water advisory to ship bottled water, canned drinks and ice from vending machines.

Meanwhile, he said fewer customers were coming because they feared the water was unsafe.

Steven O’Neill, general manager of Manship Wood Fired Kitchen and Aplos Jackson, said his establishments are able to cope with the purchase of a tilting pan about 10 years ago.

“We always buy bottled products [and] we do other things,” he said. “But we have this nice piece of equipment that allows us to boil 30 gallons that we can distribute internally to help make tea, coffee and things like that.”

Aside from the monetary costs, staff members are also suffering after the boil water advisories are issued. “We are a big restaurant. We have three levels up there,” said Iron Horse Grill executive chef Pierre Pryer. “When this water shortage happens, you haul water upstairs, you haul ice upstairs… It’s an extra workflow for my staff, but we’re doing it.”

The challenges come even as restaurants continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, employee shortages, inflation and supply chain issues.

“The National Restaurant Association reported probably a month ago that profit margins nationwide have shrunk nearly 75%,” said Pat Fontaine, executive director of the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association.

“As margins shrink, many restaurants don’t have the resources to deal with it. And so, as you know, it’s only a matter of time before we start to see doors closing, and we don’t want to see that.

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