City’s Urban Renewal’ moved to history books

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 26, 2001

[10/26/01]The federal downtown revitalization process from the 1970s was effectively ended Thursday to make way for the city-funded effort to begin.

There was no public comment at a hearing before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, which then voted to delete most of the provisions of Urban Renewal.

The framework remains in the city code because, City Attorney Nancy Thomas said, there was no provision allowing the city to terminate the program. Deleting its rules was the only way to move forward with the city’s plan.

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“What we’re trying to do is just get a clean slate,” Thomas said.

Under the federal program, towns and cities nationwide made grants for new building facades and other private property improvements. Here, several downtown blocks were paved with bricks, and planters, new lighting, a fountain, amphitheater and two parking garages were built.

Vicksburg is now seeking bids on up to $17.5 million in bonds to fund a new round of public works. About $5 million of that money will go into the city’s new urban revitalization program.

Mayor Laurence Leyens said that unlike the 1970s plan that worked to modernize downtown, the new one will work to keep a historic look in the area while clearing areas identified as slum or blight.

“The new urban renewal’ has a different geographical area and a different objective,” Leyens said. “We’re really going the opposite direction because we want to restore all of our old buildings.”

State law allows cities to establish an urban renewal area and acquire property without using the power of eminent domain and going through the court systems. The city can then sell the property to developers with state conditions of how the property will be used.

Before the new plan can be adopted, it must be presented at a public hearing identifying properties the city plans to acquire.

In other matters:

Leyens called on citizens to help encourage business owners to remove temporary signs.

“If this stuff offends, you tell the manager you don’t like it and you’re going to stop shopping there,” Leyens said.

He said city officials will take up the long-proposed new zoning ordinance in the next 60 days and it will include banning most temporary signs, but is asking businesses to comply with that code now in order to improve the appearance of the city.

Presented a certificate of appreciation to Ann Doyle, administrative assistant to Fire Chief Kevin Westbrook, for her years of service to the city.

Accepted an award to the city for reducing the flood rating for Vicksburg from 10 to 7, which will lower flood insurance rates 15 percent for people living in flood areas.

Approved an emergency expenditure of $25,000 to clean out digester No. 1 at the city sewer plant.

Executed a grant agreement of $275,000 with the Department of Archives and History for the African-American Heritage Preservation Program.

Approved a request by Main Street to purchase ads in The Vicksburg Post in the amount of $308.88.

Awarded a contract for the sale of white goods to Keyes Recycling of Vicksburg. The city collects white goods, such as refrigerators, stoves and other appliances, and sells them for recycling. The pickup of white goods can be scheduled by calling the city road department at 634-4559.

Approved a request by Vicksburg Main Street to hold the 14th Annual Halloween Parade downtown at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

Declared two Vicksburg Fire Department badges surplus property so they can be presented to a retiring officer.

Approved funding a $320 entry fee and supplies for the City of Vicksburg to enter a float in the annual Christmas Parade on Dec. 1.

Rescinded the special assessments set on three properties to be cleaned and cut by the city because of errors in paperwork. The paperwork will be resubmitted with corrections.

Approved advertising for bids for tree-cutting services at Louisiana Circle on Washington Street.

During executive session, upheld a five-day suspension without pay for a Vicksburg police officer; hired a paramedic and three firefighters; eliminated three meter reader positions in the gas department; accepted resignations in the inspection department, Jackson Street Center and water treatment plant; and the terminated an employee in the parks and recreation department.

The board will meet again at 10 a.m., Nov. 5 at City Hall Annex.