Business owners in Jackson are at a breaking point as the State of Mississippi has announced a state of emergency with the embattled Jackson water system.
Many are wondering if this is the beginning of the end for Jackson as there has been no hint from local or state leaders as to how long residents and businesses will be under a boil water notice.
“This isn’t a new thing. It has been going on for me for like 20 years. Everybody is acting like this is a new situation. It’s not. It’s a ridiculous situation that should have been addressed 20 years ago,” said Derek Emerson, who owns Walker’s Drive-in in Jackson.
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“Everybody put their head in the sand, and it has gotten to the point where people don’t want to do business in Jackson. They make it so hard. … The City of Jackson is going to put us out of business. The other towns are too close to move to. If something isn’t done, there isn’t going to be any business in Jackson,” he said.
Arden Barnett, who owns an entertainment venue in the Fondren area of Jackson, echoed much of the frustration, saying that the ongoing water issues are a black eye for the city and that the lifestyle of Jackson businesses and residents have been irreparably harmed.
“It has an impact on everyone’s attitude towards getting out and doing anything. It is all just so disheartening,” Barnett said. “I think this has all gone from “What the heck?” to “We’re pissed.” The bottom line is that we are fed up. …
“There’s no excuse to not have potable water for your community. We have been let down by our city government…for many, many years,” he said. “It has finally come to a head and there is no more band-aiding this problem. We said [expletive].”
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Sarah Friedler, general manager of Brent’s Drugs in Jackson, says the impact on business is almost overwhelming.
“People are getting worn out,” she said. “People are choosing not to dine in Jackson. They will just go somewhere else and not worry about dealing with this issue.
“The biggest problem, I think, is that there is no end in sight,” Friedler said. “Usually you try to hang on to some kind of hope, and I don’t know what that is right now and neither does anyone else. I want this city and this area to thrive and there always seems to be one thing after another with no real answers. We can’t keep living and working like this.”
Nissan Cafe at the Two Museums complex is closed as is Broad Street Bakery in Jackson as well as a few other restaurants were closed and may not open for the rest of the week.
“We are closed for a few days,” said Nick Wallace, chef at the Nissan Cafe. “I am spending $800 a day on cokes and waters and getting no help from Jackson.”
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Millsaps College, Belhaven University and Jackson State University, as well as public high schools and state employees were working virtually. The three colleges as well as the state employees are expected to be virtual all week.
Hotels in Jackson are open and had good water pressure Tuesday and have not been forced to close as many had feared would happen.
However, a CNN crew coming into the Capital City to cover the event chose not to stay in Jackson and risk not having water, instead choosing to stay at a hotel in Ridgeland.
Emerson said he is grateful for the governor stepping into the situation, but he acknowledges that Jackson’s water woes date back 40 to 50 years.
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“This all did not happen overnight, but I am not opposed to the governor looking into it,” Emerson said. “The mayor is in his second term and has not found a solution either. They spent $100,000 for a tent over the damn water plant. Is that really the fix we need?
“But the problem is that no one has done anything for many years. We used to learn later that there were 15 boil water notices during the year and we never knew about it. Now, everybody knows about every time. I hate to say it, but people have been drinking that water for a long time.”
Emerson worries that the situation could be too far gone this time, at least from a business standpoint.
“Let’s be honest, until they get this worked out and until they get the crime situation worked out, it is going to make it real hard for people to do business here,” Emerson said. “My question is when are insurance companies going to get tired of paying out claims for loss of business and start suing the city? What are they going to do when there are a bunch of class action lawsuits? Maybe everyone should quit paying their water bills and see what happens.”