Mississippi mayor wants to bring Las Vegas glam to one of state’s most iconic views

Published 4:20 pm Wednesday, November 24, 2021

One Mississippi mayor wants to bring a little bit of Las Vegas glam to one of the most iconic views in the state.

Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson unveiled his plans to relight the bridges that cross over the Mississippi River and he wants to do it with colored lights, music and more.

“The bridges are going to be brought back to life. The lights are going to be restored,” Gibson said as he presented a video to the city’s board of aldermen describing his vision.

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The price tag for lighting the bridges will be $5.7 million, and Gibson told the Board of Aldermen where part of that money will come from.

He referred to plans for lighting the bridge as something akin to the light and music show at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.

“We are referring to a famous, iconic experience in Las Vegas at the Bellagio Hotel where they watch the fountains and listen to music and see light and color. Well, every evening after sunset is our goal that we will have speakers on the bluff and along the Vidalia riverfront where individuals can even watch and listen on their phones and have a light show every evening after the sun sets,” Gibson said. “We are working very hard to make that happen.”

The city is teaming up with Curtis Stout Inc., a company that has provided lighting and electrical engineering services for a number of monuments and bridges across the nation, including the Mississippi Capitol dome.

“We have gone through a number of efforts to get to the right price. We first started right after the election. We were very hopeful funds would be made available through MDOT to restore the lights. But with COVID and budget concerns, our hopes were dashed,” he said.

He said work continued to find a way to light the bridges working with private companies with estimates for the work ranging from $16 million to $9 million.

“We did not give up. We continued to meet with professionals with MDOT and during the process we worked as a team with Mayor Buz Craft of Vidalia and I’m happy to report that Curtis Stout, a Mississippi company that has done many projects, has brought us a price and is turnkey and includes taxes, fees, everything for $5.7 million,” Gibson said.

Gibson said he has had a number of conversations with Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, who said has committed to doing all he can to find one third of the funding for the project in Louisiana.

“Becky Currie, the chairwoman of tourism in the Mississippi House of Representatives, has agreed to include one third of the funding — $2 million — in a bill that is going to be going before the Mississippi Legislature She will also discuss that with Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, who has been very encouraging,” Gibson said.

He said he will travel to Washington, D.C., on Dec. 5 for the purpose of lobbying members of the Louisiana Congressional Delegation on Dec. 6, asking for funding for the lighting project.

“I will then be joined in Washington by President Angela Hutchins of the Adams County Board of Supervisors and our lobbyists and we will have more meetings with our own Mississippi delegation. We will be discussing lights on the bridge and also want to discuss a lot of other things that we have all been talking about that pertain to our legislative agenda,” Gibson said.

In other business, Gibson asked the Board of Aldermen’s street committee to meet next week to go over information gathered by the city’s Public Works Director Justin Dollar on compensation paid to his department’s employees.

Gibson said the department is down between six and seven positions and are losing employees to other municipalities who are paying employees more.

“After the street committee meets, I would like to have a special called meeting on Friday, Dec. 3, to discuss changes,” he said.

Gibson said Dollar has researched what other municipalities is paying its employees and compared that to what the city is paying.

“We have a dire need. We are losing personnel to other entities. We have a number of vacancies,” he said. “We have a critical need for manpower.”