Decision expected on seeking state funds

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 24, 2001

[04/24/01] A state grant program could help with recreation facilities and downtown improvements, but a requirement of 50 percent matching funds made Vicksburg officials wary.

No one appeared at a public meeting Monday night to discuss applying for the grants, but city officials discussed the program among themselves.

The Mississippi Development Authority is allocating $37.6 million to community development activities and the city plans to ask for $50,000 from a $400,000 recreation fund and $50,000 from a downtown improvements fund containing the same allocation.

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The deadline for applying for the grants is a week from Tuesday, which is also Democratic primary day, and it would mean pledging $100,000 in local money to match the grants.

South Ward Alderman Sam Habeeb, who will leave office in July, questioned the local proportion and whether to commit a new administration to the project.

Beatrice Moore, director of housing and community development, said awards won’t be made until the fall, and the new administration would be committed to provide the funds.

Ideas being looked at for the recreation project include creating a new playground on Pearl Street, an indoor pool for the elderly and youth in the downtown area, a skateboard ramp and updating existing playgrounds with new equipment and water activities. Some of those projects are already under way.

Moore said the ideas will be ranked before the board meeting Tuesday and will be discussed with state officials to determine if the ideas meet grant eligibility requirements.

“These particular community development projects are relatively new, so it is difficult to know what the state is looking for,” Moore said.

She said if the state allows the recreation project may include more than one idea.

Grants for downtown renovations require work to be done in public areas and include sidewalks, lighting and street repair.

Many of the improvements allowed are already in the works and have been budgeted for, which makes a grant more lucrative for the city, North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young said.

“It’s ideal when you know you have to do something and have a budget for it anyway,” Young said. She said using the money for a match and letting the state pay for some of the repairs would help the city’s budget.

Moore and Young said the grant is expected to be discussed and voted on in the city board’s meeting Wednesday.

A lighting project is already planned for Washington Street but was put on hold because the one bid for the project exceeded the $150,000 budget.

“It would just be bringing more money in, and the city wouldn’t have to kick in as much,” Young said.

Ideas for the downtown improvement grant include lighting and developing the waterfront.

A requirement for both grant funds that the city meets is to have a majority low-to-moderate income population. Vicksburg’s population is 54 percent low-to-moderate income, Moore said.

Mayor Robert Walker did not attend the hearing.