2 non-profit groups awarded city funds

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 24, 2003

(10/25/03)City officials approved requests for funding from two local non-profit groups Friday while asking that other groups expecting money come forward to make formal requests before the board.

The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to allocate $5,240 for the Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation and $15,224 for Vicksburg Initiative Inc. Both groups had made presentations before the board requesting the funding to match grants.

Funding for the Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation had been delayed at Monday’s meeting by officials citing budget concerns.

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“There was an issue of making sure that all the social programs get what was budgeted to them,” said North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young.

Before approving this year’s budget which began Oct. 1, city officials said they will not approve any requests from local charities for funding unless the organization appears at a public board meeting and explains how the money will be spent. Those meetings are televised on the city’s cable channel, TV23, and in the first three weeks of the fiscal year only a handful have made requests.

In previous years, charities who rely on city funding have sent letters requesting support before the budget was approved and never appeared at the public meetings. Mayor Laurence Leyens, who was not present for the entire meeting, has said that he wanted the public to be more involved and better informed about how city tax dollars are being spent.

South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman also asked that any groups that have not made their presentations to the board come forward in the next month.

“If they’re not willing to come before us and explain what they’re doing with the money then I don’t think we’re obligated to allocate the money,” Beauman said.

“Just because we have a budgeted line item doesn’t mean they will automatically get funding,” he said.

Officials have said that after all agencies have gotten allocations, if there is any money left over some charities may be able to apply for a second round of funding. The director of the Vicksburg Haven House Family Shelter who has said she is hopeful they will be able to get more money after the first of the year.

Lark Johnson had asked for $25,000 to match federal grants for the women’s and children’s shelter. The city board allocated $18,750, 25 percent less than the request, and Johnson said it would force the organization to cut services.

The Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation and the Initiative both received the full amount of their requests.

The city board approved a $27.2 million budget for the current fiscal year and set aside 1 mill of taxes, or about $264,000, for outside agencies and charities. State law limits the amount cities can donate to 1 mill.

Other agencies which are usually funded by the city include the 807 Clinic and We Care.

In other matters the city board:

Declared Monday Make-A-Difference Day in Vicksburg.

Approved a request by Columbia Sussex, the company purchasing Harrah’s Hotel and Casino, to tear down a 101-year-old building on Levee Street adjacent to the casino. Plans call for the property to become a parking lot and to create a second entrance to the boat.

Awarded sealed bids for sewer pipe and castings, storm sewer pipe and fire hydrants.

Authorized the City Clerk to advertise for sealed bids for grit removal at the water treatment plant.

Approved advertising in The Vicksburg Post in the amount of $700 for the Festival of Trees, $318 in a special section for the 50th anniversary of the tornado that damaged much of downtown and $637 in the Christmas greetings section.

Approved a $2,422 payment to the Vicksburg Tallulah Regional Airport in Mound.

Set a public hearing for 10 a.m. Nov. 17 on an appeal from Jamal Khouri seeking to demolish a house at 1917 Washington St.

Authorized the mayor to execute an agreement with May & Company for the city’s annual audit.

Approved $1,314 to purchase items for the G.R.E.A.T. program through the Vicksburg Police Department.

Approved budget amendments to reflect the $5.8 million bond issue in last year’s budget. The bonds were planned to be received by the city in the current fiscal year, but came in last month.

Amended the city’s code of ordinance to require vendors to comply with all federal and state laws before being grant a license to sell alcohol.

Approved a two-year contract for cell phone services with AT&T.

The city board will meet again at 10 a.m., Tuesday at City Hall Annex.