October 23, 2020

City defers utility bills for residents affected by federal shutdown

A Mississippi city has agreed to temporarily hold on collecting delinquent water and gas bills of residents who have been furloughed from their federal jobs due to the ongoing federal government shutdown.

“It was brought to our attention that we have a lot of government workers who have been affected by the shutdown,” Vicksburg South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour said Monday.

Monsour said he talked with water and gas manager Tammy Christmas about providing water and gas for the affected federal workers “who are living paycheck to paycheck.”

The alderman said federal workers affected by the shutdown should call the water and gas department office at 601-636-3414, tell them and show proof they are a federal employee affected by the shutdown “so they will not be affected and their water and gas will not be cut off.

“We’re doing all we can in Vicksburg to make sure that while they have this temporary shutdown, we take care of the people in the City of Vicksburg.”

Monsour said people will be expected to pay their bills once they return to work.

“We can’t forgive the debt, but we can temporarily suspend it until they get to work,” he added.

Helping VNMP

In a related matter, Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said the city has to date spent $27,774 to help keep the Vicksburg National Military Park open to visitors.

The board Jan. 2 approved a resolution to match contributions by the Friends of the Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign up to $2,000 to help keep the park open.

The Friends on Dec. 21 announced it was committing funds to keep the park open during the federal government shutdown because the park would not be funded.

Bess Mitchell Averett, executive director of Friends of Vicksburg National Military Park & Campaign, said at the time the tour road, visitor center, U.S.S. Cairo gunboat and museum, the Vicksburg National Cemetery and all restrooms will be kept open.

The cost of keeping the park open is estimated at $2,000 a day.

“To those who question that, I think it’s money well spent,” Flaggs said. “From the conversations I hear on the street is that it’s (keeping the park open) very productive, and going well, because the park is open for business and we didn’t impede our tourism.”