City also votes to buy building adjacent to convention center

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 7, 2004

[7/7/04]Work at a major intersection along a corridor leading downtown and to create a park adjacent to City Front is expected to begin in the next 60 days.

The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted Tuesday to approve multimillion-dollar contracts for improvements at Clay and Hope streets and for the downtown art park.

The board also voted to pay $182,000 for a building and land adjacent to the Vicksburg Convention Center.

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The contract for $2.6 million park along Levee Street went to Camo Construction of Vidalia, La.

The park, to include a steamboat playground with interactive displays showing the history of river transportation, a pilot house, bells and other steamboat-related features, is part of a phased makeover of the entire downtown area.

The plan will also include public bathrooms, benches and landscaping. That area today is across railroad tracks from the City Front murals and is vacant since the removal of the former McGuffie Steel building.

The city board previously rejected bids for the project after all the bids came back more than $1 million over budget. The work is being funded from the $17.5 million bond issued in 2001.

“I have struggled very much about this, not because of the project, but because of the cost of the project,” said South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman who previously indicated he might not support the plan.

The contract was approved in a 2-0 vote. Mayor Laurence Leyens was out of town and did not attend the meeting, but voiced his support in a phone call heard over a speaker phone during the meeting.

“I very much support this investment in our children’s future,” Leyens said. “It’s going to be a substantial park.”

The contract for work at Clay and Hope streets was for $761,557 and was awarded to Dirtworks Inc. It includes the addition of a turning lane and mast-arm traffic signals. The intersection is the first along Clay Street heading to downtown from the Vicksburg National Military Park.

“This is going to be a dramatic improvement to the entrance to our city,” Leyens said.

In another area where city officials have said they want to make dramatic changes, the city plans to tear down the building at 615 Mulberry St. across from the Vicksburg Convention Center. The city had offered owner Pete Buford $152,500 for the metal building and 26,136 square feet of land.

Buford turned down that offer, and city attorneys argued in court last week that it was a fair offer. A Warren County jury set the amount at $182,000 for the property, which the board agreed to pay.

In other matters, the city board:

Received sealed proposals for administrative services and engineering services for proposed work at the Vicksburg Municipal Airport to be funded by a state grant.

Authorized final payment for the former Levee Street Depot renovations and an addition to Kings Community Center.

Heard a complaint from Amie LaSalle concerning the police department’s handling of a robbery.

Accepted applications for tax abatement from three downtown property owners.

Approved allocation of $6,000 to Keep Vicksburg Warren Beautiful Inc.

Entered a contract with Brenda Koestler for an adult tennis tournament this weekend at Halls Ferry Park.

Accepted a grant for the Mississippi Arts Commission from the next downtown floodwall mural, featuring the Vicksburg National Military Park.

Adopted a resolution for acquiring a temporary easement along Chambers Street for sewer repairs.

Entered into a contract with the State Fire Academy for firefighter rope rescue training.

Accepted a recommendation from the Zoning Board of Appeals to amend the city’s parking lot ordinance to exempt businesses in the downtown area that are within 300 feet of public parking.

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