City seeks OK to limit metal buildings

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 5, 2004

Chris Jones, with Southern Mississippi Excavation, digs a ditch for a culvert on the site of a new Dollar General store on Clay Street Wednesday. In the background, across Clay, are two existing metal buildings. (Jenny Sevcik The Vicksburg Post)

[2/5/04]A local and private bill requested by the City of Vicksburg to help improve the appearance of Clay Street appears to have had an effect without even being considered by legislators.

The request for legislation to allow the city to adopt and enforce ordinances to set minimum appearance standards and specifications for commercial buildings was one of five such measures sought through resolutions passed at a special meeting of the Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Vicksburg Wednesday.

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“I came here about six months ago and was told the city allowed metal buildings,” said Ryan McGuffee, who is developing a lot in the 2200 block of Clay Street for a Dollar General Store.

Later, McGuffee said, he talked to Victor Gray-Lewis, Building and Inspection Department administrator, and he learned the city planned to change the rules.

“Now, we are going to be the first (to comply with the pending changes) on Clay Street,” he said. “We wanted to set a good example.”

McGuffee said he changed the plans from a metal building to one with a brick front and a stucco-type coating on the sides. He also said there will be a brick retaining wall across the front with landscaping.

The exterior of a Family Dollar Store being built around the corner, on Mission 66, will be brick on three sides, Gray-Lewis said this morning.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, city officials asked the Legislature to amend two sections of state law to change the way one government will pay another for such services as tax collection and change the law dealing with purchase of property by governments.

The local and private bill to allow the city to set appearance and design standards is patterned on a similar law obtained by the City of Olive Branch, said Mayor Laurence Leyens.

The aim is to require builders to cover at least the outside of their buildings with something such as brick or masonry.

“They need to at least put pavers up,” Leyens said after joining North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young and South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman in signing the resolutions that will be sent to the local legislative delegation.

Another piece of local and private legislation would allow the city to contract with a private prison in East Carroll Parish to house misdemeanor prisoners for the city.

The city currently has a contract with Issaquena County to house city prisoners when the Warren County Jail is full. That costs the city $30 per day per prisoner plus the cost of city police officers driving the prisoners to and from Issaquena County.

The East Carroll facility proposes to charge $25 per day per prisoner. In addition, East Carroll will supply transportation and some medical coverage, Leyens said.

“That could save us $100,000 a year,” he said.

The city currently spends about $400,000 a year with Issaquena County.

Other local and private legislation sought included:

A bill seeking additional state money to maintain Beulah Cemetery, a historic black cemetery at the end of Martin Luther King Drive. The committee that oversees the cemetery had gotten $50,000 from the state, but that money has run out.

A bill to allow the city to provide in-kind services to the Initiative Inc. The Initiative is a program that provides housing and other services to single parents who want to attend school so they can become self sufficient.

A bill to allow the city to contribute money to Keep Vicksburg Warren Beautiful.

The request for an amendment to state law dealing with payments from one government to another for services rendered would allow Vicksburg, for example, to pay Warren County a fee of 5 percent to collect taxes for the city or the actual cost of the service, whichever is less, Leyens said.

The request to amend the law dealing with purchase of property would allow governments to pay either the appraised value of the property or the owner’s asking price, whichever is less. Present law restricts governments to paying the appraised value even if the owner is asking less.

Leyens said the city ran into the situation when buying land for the urban renewal project. The appraisal was higher than the owner’s price, but the city had to pay the appraised value.