City to tap river’ with capital improvements

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 14, 2000

Plans to expand and beautify City Front made the list of improvement projects on Vicksburg’s list for next year, along with more new water wells and a slew of street improvements.

“We’re tapping into an area that has been neglected in the past in terms of being an attraction,” North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young said of the area generally north of Harrah’s Hotel and Casino.

“We have a lot of boats that stop here, but they don’t stay because they’re not encouraged to stay,” Young said.

The $7 million capital improvements budget, a fund separate from the city’s operating expenses, includes $100,000 for expanding the concrete area on the north side of the waterfront and $240,569 for “waterfront development.”

The amount is part of a $30.2 million spending plan OK’d on a 2-1 vote at City Hall Tuesday.

Young said the City Front allocation will pay for landscaping and other improvements in the area, as visualized by City Landscaper Jeff Richardson.

Major additions to City Front were also undertaken during the past administration, starting about seven years ago.

The Motor Vessel Mississippi will also be a part of any waterfront development plan, Young said. The former Army Corps of Engineers flagship was obtained six years ago as surplus property and has been docked and rusting in a slough off Vicksburg’s harbor since.

In the general fund, the board allocated $150,000 for maintaining and supporting the vessel. The money formerly was used for support of the Southern Cultural Heritage Center.

Richardson, who has produced detailed drawings of his plans for a revitalized waterfront area, said the city’s connection to the Mississippi River is at least as important as any other entrance corridor into the city.

“What we’re trying to do is provide a nice, formal entrance to the city for the riverboats,” Richardson said. “It’s something to draw people downtown from the military park or the convention center.”

Richardson’s plans include three large landscaped areas representing different types of Mississippi flora: a spring garden, a hill garden and a Delta garden.

It also places a new main entrance to the waterfront at Jackson Street and provides a riverboat-themed playground for children.

Richardson said he has no idea what parts of the overall plan might be funded by the allocation for this year, and hasn’t yet made any plans to start work on the project.

The budget for fiscal 2001 was approved Tuesday by the Board of Mayor and Alderman, and does not take effect until Oct. 1.

The capital improvements budget is funded by reserves of unused dollars from previous budgets.

The fund also includes money to drill four new water wells at a cost of $881,200.

Mayor Robert Walker has said the new wells will help prevent water shortages like the one that threatened the city this summer, sparking a voluntary water rationing program that remains in effect.

The Jackson Street youth center is also represented under capital items, and officials expect to award a construction contract for the center this month.

Much of the rest of the capital budget is street improvements. Uneven paving on North Washington Street, where the sewer line is buried, is high on the list of projects, along with an expansion of the intersection of Clay and Hope streets.