Hearings to focus on city ward lines, Harrah’s, flood-plain plan

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 26, 2003

[9/26/03]Three public hearings by Vicksburg officials will be in October, including one regarding the new line to separate the city’s North and South wards.

The Mayor and Aldermen also voted Thursday to set hearings for an appeal from the Kentucky-based company seeking to buy Harrah’s Hotel and Casino that would allow for a second entrance to the boat and for a proposed amendment to the city’s flood plain ordinance.

All three formal hearings were set for 10 a.m. Oct. 20 in City Hall Annex.

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Maps showing the proposed new route of the line that splits the city’s two wards will be made available for the public next week at the City Clerk’s Office and at the Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library, City Attorney Nancy Thomas said.

The line was drawn by North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young and submitted to Central Mississippi Planning and Development for additional input.

The single line amounts to constitutionally required redistricting for Vicksburg and will have to be approved by the U.S. Justice Department. Before 1976, Vicksburg’s two aldermen were elected at-large. Since then, there’s been a predominantly black North Ward and a predominantly white South Ward. Every 10 years, the line is adjusted to keep populations and racial composition within guidelines.

“The important thing is that we get this out to the public in time before the next election,” said South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman.

Today, the line that separates the North and South wards begins at the Mississippi River at Fairground Street and runs along Bowmar Avenue, Stouts Bayou, Mission 66 and Clay Street.

Census numbers show about 11,799 residents in the North Ward and about 14,669 in the South. Young’s plan would even those numbers to 13,224 each by shifting the line south to include the Marcus Bottom area along Halls Ferry Road into the North Ward.

Officials will accept public comment about the plan at the hearing, along with comments about the changes to the flood plain ordinance that will allow the city to designate areas in the flood plain that are not recognized today.

Victor Gray-Lewis, administrator of the city’s inspection department, said under the new ordinance, the city will be able to require construction of buildings in certain areas to be elevated to prevent flood damage.

Representatives of Columbia Sussex Corporation, the company seeking authority to buy Harrah’s, will also pitch its plans Oct. 20 to tear down two structures along Levee Street for the construction of a parking lot and new entrance to the casino. The site is adjacent to the casino south of Harrah’s, but because the area is in the Historic District, the buildings are protected.

Mayor Laurence Leyens said that since neither structure is architecturally significant, the city will consider the request. He said the city may ask the company to invest in the redevelopment of another historic property in exchange for permission to demolish the buildings on Levee Street.

In other matters the city board:

Approved board meeting minutes from Sept. 10.

Awarded a bid for phase 2A of the Clay Street traffic signal project.

Approved changes to the basement renovations at the Vicksburg Convention Center and the purchase of exhibit hall spotlights, portable lighting and a printer.

Approved $25,000 for the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau for advertising.

Approved paying $2,420 for bill reimbursement for the Vicksburg Tallulah Regional Airport.

Approved the purchase of land for additional water wells.

Entered a grant with the Mississippi Forestry Commission for planting 275 trees along U.S. 61 South between Redbone Road and the city limits.

Authorized the submittal of a preapplication to the USDA Rural Development Agency for funding to develop an African-American Museum and Marketplace.

The city board will meet again at 10 a.m. Oct. 6 at City Hall Annex.