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County is cool to city idea of property tax abatements

A proposal from Vicksburg officials to grant tax abatements for businesses within the city limits has received a cool reception from the Warren County Board of Supervisors.

In a separate action, the board agreed to ask local members of the legislative delegation to work for passage of a law to place county boards first in the loop of agencies when dealing with the renewal of old permits for the operation of sanitary landfills.

When the board met Tuesday, Board President Richard George brought up the request from city officials that the county support legislation to allow the county to join in granting tax abatements for businesses that renovate their buildings.

The tax abatement request is part of the city’s downtown revitalization program and would grant a reduction in property taxes to encourage the owners of commercial structures in the city to make renovations and improvements.

“The matter at hand here is the state law (that allows) cities and counties to abate taxes on improvements in designated areas,” George said adding it was the intent of the law to restrict the abatements to central business districts, historic districts and historic sites only.

“This request (from the city) is to go beyond that requirement.,” he said.

Board attorney Randy Sherard said the deadline for introducing such a bill may have already passed because it’s a tax measure.

George said he felt it unwise to reduce taxes collected by cities and counties because of possible cuts in the money the state returns to local governments.

The discussion of landfill rules began when James Flanders, a resident of U.S. 61 South who opposes the renewal of the permit for Warren County Waste Disposal Inc. to operate a landfill on land off Jeff Davis Road, read a letter to the board.

Flanders said he was told by Chuck Barlow, the chief attorney for the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, the DEQ could only determine if the proposed landfill met regulations.

“If it passes all regulatory hurdles, the process of using this old permit effectively circumvents all prior hearings, public input and the decision of this board,” Flanders said.

He then asked supervisors to send a written request to area legislators to: “Introduce and help pass a specific law to immediately forbid any attempts to renew old permits for landfills granted prior to current laws and regulations so that all permits … be subject to current laws and regulations, so the loophole is closed and use all available means to delay the Warren County application now in process pending passage of this law.”

District 4 Supervisor Bill Lauderdale Jr. moved to ask the legislative delegation to introduce a bill to close the loophole.

“The people need to understand this thing is in the hands of the state and it shouldn’t be,” he said.

District 2 Supervisor Michael Mayfield seconded the motion.

The motion passed unanimously.

In other actions, the board:

Approved repairing the entrance to a church cemetery off Scott Road since it was deemed a public cemetery.

Ratified operating hours for the Kings Point Ferry beginning Feb. 1 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week.

Accepted the resignation of Carolyn Butler Luckett as justice court clerk and appointed Carla Fields as interim clerk.