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City gives partial OK to request by owners of Harleys

[08/07/01] Planners of a motorcycle rally will be allowed to close a portion of Mulberry Street at the front of the Vicksburg Convention Center, but city officials hedged on waiving the open-container ordinance for the event.

David Beard, a police lieutenant and head of the Vicksburg department’s traffic division, presented the request at City Hall Monday on behalf of the Harley Owners Group.

The group wants to close the street as needed between Oct. 11 and Oct. 13 and to allow the organization to consume alcoholic beverages in the parking lot of the convention center.

The group held its convention for the first time in Vicksburg a year ago, and it was based at Rainbow Casino.

Beard said closing the street would not interfere with traffic in the area because no other businesses face the portion of the street to be closed.

“It’s the same thing we’ve done in the past for the Miss Mississippi Pageant,” he said.

But North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young questioned allowing drinking outside the convention center.

“I saw the motorcycles last year and I thought it was a great idea,” Young said. “But why do they need to be drinking if they’re going to be driving?”

Under a law now about 10 years old, Vicksburg bans drinking beer, wine or whiskey outdoors on public property, including city parks and ballfields. Enforcement of the law, however, is suspended by city decree for events such as RiverFest each April.

Police Chief Mitchell Dent said the Harley-Davidson group caused no problems last year and he anticipates none this year.

“These are not hard-core motorcyclists,” Dent said. “These are doctors and lawyers who happen to own Harleys.”

Dent said he met with representatives of the group along with Beard and Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace, a motorcyclist, to discuss plans for the event, including extra police patrols in the area and for the parade.

Dent said the group is asking for the waiver because members planned to have motorcycles outside of the convention center for show and anticipated people bringing alcohol outside with them.

South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman asked that the matter be tabled. He had voted against the only previous request the month-old administration has heard to waive the ordinance.

At the time, Beauman said he didn’t like allowing people to have alcohol on the streets for any event.

Mayor Laurence Leyens said the board could table the matter until representatives of the organization were available to meet with them later.

“The fact that they’re asking for this waiver tells me that they are being very responsible in saying that this is what is really going to happen,” Leyens said.

Beard said that the group expected about 1,000 participants at this year’s event bringing about 500 motorcycles.

In other matters, the board:

Approved a letter to Vicksburg Printing and Publishing Company, owner of The Vicksburg Post, regarding the city’s position toward the company’s land at Riverfront Park and improvements made there by Isle of Capri Casino. Part of the company’s five acres, leased to the city and county for $1 a year, was used by the casino during the construction of its hotel. Since no written agreement was entered by the city, county, casino or Vicksburg Publishing, the city contends that any improvements to the land belong to the city and county.

Received sealed bids for the lease of portable toilets, traffic paint and landscaping supplies.

Approved a request by the Vicksburg High School booster club to paint green alligator footprints along Drummond Street from the high school to the stadium across the street.

Approved a request by the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi to block a 1.1-mile walk route on Oct. 6. The route will begin at BancorpSouth on Monroe Street and continue along Belmont, Washington, Veto and Walnut streets in downtown Vicksburg.

Executed a grant agreement with the Mississippi Forestry Commission for the Mississippi Transportation Enhancement Tree Planting Program. The program will provide $8,832 to plant 100 trees in downtown Vicksburg in an area between Clay and First East streets and Cherry Street and the waterfront.

Approved a recommendation from the zoning board to change the zoning of the former Halls Ferry School from residential to general commercial.

Heard personnel matters in the safety, fire, police and recreation departments and the Kings Community Center in a closed session.