November 30, 2020

Vicksburg suddenly drops plans for $55 million capital program

Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said Tuesday he was dropping plans for a $55 million capital improvements program funded by a 1-percent sales tax.

“We’re not ready,” he said at Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

Flaggs in April presented the capital improvements project with $26.5 million for paving and other projects and improvements to the Vicksburg riverfront, and $28.5 million in potential matching funds for a port project, which was estimated at $125 million.

He planned to go to the Legislature to seek a local and private, or special bill, to hold a public referendum to allow the city to levy the tax, and called a Monday meeting with the county’s legislative delegation to discuss the proposed bill. That meeting, Flaggs said, is cancelled.

“We (the board) should not proceed on the 1 percent discussion until I’ve talked with the (House and Senate) leadership,” he said while discussing his decision.

Flaggs said there was some confusion over which projects would be funded by the tax, citing the riverfront project and the Kings community revitalization.

Kings project on hold

The city’s Riverfront Committee has presented plans for an estimated $10.9 million makeover of the riverfront including a walkway from Washington Street to the Mississippi River, amphitheater, making Levee Street pedestrian friendly and improved railroad track pedestrian crossings from the river to Levee Street.

Flaggs said the riverfront plans have been finalized. The Kings revitalization project, which is estimated at $83 million, is not, he said, “And we don’t know where we’re going with that, because $83 million is not in our dream.

“We have to consolidate those numbers and look at them. We’re not ready to go forward, and I don’t know (if) we’ll be ready this year,” he said. “I don’t know if we have enough time. I’m not going to rush it, by no means. It is absolutely imperative that it be the game changer for major capital improvements in the city.”

Flaggs said he is going to find the best program and the best way to fund it.

“When you do the due diligence and bring it to the people, you have to make sure they fully understand it,” South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour said. “We need to do it proper. We need all the time we can and make sure to vet it well and bring something out the people understand, and we don’t make mistakes.”

In another matter, the board authorized a special port committee to negotiate a contract with Jacobs Engineering Group of Gulfport for feasibility study for a new Mississippi River Port near Vicksburg.

Jacobs was one of three engineering firms submitting qualifications for the job. Other companies submitting qualifications were Allen and Hoshall of Jackson and Waggoner Engineering of Jackson.