Officials pledge togetherness

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2001

[01/02/01] City and county elected officials are making their New Year’s resolution to have more cooperation between the two governments.

While Vicksburg’s mayor and aldermen and Warren County supervisors have different priorities for the area, one thing they agree on is that the two need to work together and plan for the entire community in 2001.

“I’m looking forward to a good year,” said Mayor Robert Walker. “And it will be a good year if everyone will make a resolution to make Vicksburg No. 1.”

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Walker said that politicians should set aside differences in the new year to pull together for what is best for the entire community, and that social and civic groups need to do more to provide leadership in the community.

“Often time people expect the city to do everything and provide all the funds,” Walker said, but added, “our faith based institution need to do more.”

Street pavings topped Walker’s list of city projects for the next year, including repaving North Washington from First East to the port and the second phase of Halls Ferry Road. Other projects he said he is looking forward to in 2001 are a new police precinct in the Kings community, the installation of four new water wells this spring and the completion of the Jackson Street Creative Resource Center.

“The Jackson Street Center is a good start,” said District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon, “but I don’t think the county is working to develop recreation.”

Selmon said that it was time for county officials to begin looking toward providing activities for the growing numbers of people who live in the county.

His wish list also included a tax break and more cooperation between the city and county governments in the new year.

“I think that working together we can have a better Vicksburg and Warren County,” Selmon said.

While District 1 Supervisor David McDonald said he would like to see more long-range planning between the city and county, one area of special importance to him is the expanding areas along U.S. 61 North near the site of the new hospital.

“I’m going to push for some land-use regulations in that area,” McDonald said.

Officials also hope to benefit from “The Majesty of Spain” exhibition, planned for March 3-Sept. 1 in Jackson. They are still hopeful that King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia can be coaxed into coming to the River City, Walker said.

Still other programs in the city will be less obvious, but could have the greatest effect on residents.

“We’re doing some things with the city that are different and probably long overdue,” Walker said.

City employees and managers will be taking training courses and budgeting seminars this year and each department will be provided a specific mission statement.

South Ward Alderman Sam Habeeb said that poor management in city services has been costly for taxpayers and that it is time for officials to face the facts about the weaknesses of city services.

“All of those other issues are fine, but they don’t amount to a hill of beans unless you have good police, sewer and water,” he said.

Habeeb, who will leave office in July, said he felt that the city and county needed to come together, but that it should be more official than metaphoric.

“I really think that it is silly with our population in the city and county for us to have separate government,” Habeeb said.

He cited areas in the county such as Sherman and Indiana avenues where fire departments sit within yards of the municipal limits, but do not respond to fires in the county.

“I’m hoping that the city and county can come together and work together,” said District 2 Supervisor Michael Mayfield.

But there are some projects from previous years that still have to be addressed before new ones can truly take the center stage, Mayfield said.

“One of my biggest concerns, if not the biggest, is the project on Kings Point Island,” he said.

McDonald agreed that a resolution would be needed sometime this year to the costly ferry that provides the only access to the island during high water. Supervisors debated last year between building a bridge or constructing a levee.

“I see a lot of good things happening for our community if everyone will work together,” Walker said.