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City draws plan to use engineers for community

[08/15/01] Since Vicksburg has so many engineers, city officials announced Tuesday an advisory committee to tap their brains.

Steve Pranger, a chemical engineer at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station, will head up the committee. Its goal is to improve working relations between the Corps, which employs thousands of engineers of all types, and City Hall.

“The original purpose of the engineer advisory committee is to increase the participation by Corps employees in community projects,” Pranger said.

The committee will meet for the first time at 4 p.m., Thursday at City Hall. One of the first tasks will be ranking by importance 23 city and county projects that involve engineering.

The list was created by Pranger and Mayor Laurence Leyens. The committee will provide advice and report back to the Mayor and Aldermen.

Leyens said he hoped by getting local federal employees more involved with the community, they would encourage more of the industries the Corps does contract business with to locate in Vicksburg.

“One of the long-term strategic initiatives of this administration is to try to leverage the presence of the federal government in this community,” Leyens said.

In addition to WES, newly redubbed the U.S. Army Research and Development Center, Vicksburg is home to the Corps’ Mississippi Valley Division and Vicksburg District. While the MVD and District focus on stream- and river-related work, WES projects cover a much wider spectrum of scientific fields.

Alderman Gertrude Young, who has represented the North Ward since 1993, said she was pleased to see adding ties to the Corps.

“I’ve been here for two administrations, and this is the first time I’ve seen these two come together,” Young said. “I think this is great.”

In total, the three agencies employ about 800 civilian and military engineers in a local government workforce of approximately 2,700 people.

Leyens said that unlike other committees that have shown little results, the engineer group will take on real problems and provide solutions.

“It shouldn’t just be a committee for the fun of having a committee,” Leyens said. “People who serve on a committee need to have a real value proposition.”

Pranger said the committee is mainly about getting federal employees involved in city projects, but anyone in the community is invited to volunteer.

In other matters, the board:

Approved a change order extending the North Washington Street improvement project by 45 days. The project is now expected to be complete by Oct. 10.

Approved a change order on Riviera Heights street improvements. The changes increased the cost of the project $2,099.

Authorized a lease agreement for a copier for the legal department.

Executed a contract with Surplus City USA for use of the indoor pistol range in Clinton for the Vicksburg Police Department. The cost for one year is $2,500.

The board will meet again at 2 p.m., Thursday at City Hall.