Carlisle picked to fill spot on U.S. 80 bridge panel|[01/08/08]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Minutes after formally beginning their four-year terms, Warren County supervisors on Monday filled a Vicksburg Bridge Commission slot vacated last year when conflict of interest questions prompted the previous occupant to resign from the panel responsible for maintaining the old U.S. 80 Mississippi River Bridge.

The position will go to John Carlisle, who has worked in a county mobile home business and formerly served as a trustee of the Vicksburg Warren School District. Car-lisle was nominated to the commission by District 4 Supervisor Bill Lauderdale and approved unanimously.

“I’ve known John for years and know him to be interested in the community,” Lauderdale said. “He’s got a good background that I think makes him a good pick.”

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Carlisle will replace Hugh “Winky” Freeman, a Canadian National Railway official who stepped down in November after a state Ethics Commission opinion found that Freeman’s impartiality could potentially be compromised due to CNR’s ties to Kansas City Southern, a rail company that pays the bridge panel for use of tracks on the bridge.

CNR, the parent company of Illinois Central Railway, often interchanges rail cars with KCS.

Supervisors take turns appointing the five members of the bridge commission, each of whom serves a five-year term. Freeman was the appointee of former District 4 Supervisor Carl Flanders, whom Lauderdale defeated in the November general election. Carlisle will serve out the remainder of Freeman’s term, which expires in 2009.

Other members of the bridge panel are District 1 appointee Tom Hill, whose term expires in 2010, District 2 appointee O.A. Williams, whose term elapses this year, District 3 appointee Ray Wade, whose term runs through 2012, and District 5 appointee Robert Moss, whose term is up in 2011.

The commission, whose members receive monthly stipends of $391.62 plus insurance and pension benefits, traditionally played a low-key, almost perfunctory role in administering the bridge, which was purchased by the county after World War II from the investment company that built it in 1930.

The panel has been challenged in recent years, though, by work needed to maintain the stability of the aging bridge, thorny negotiations with Kansas City Southern, which provides most of the bridge’s budget, and demands to reopen the bridge roadway — closed to vehicular traffic in 1998 — to cars or convert it to a park for pedestrians.

Carlisle said his top priorities will include finding a way to open the bridge to emergency-service vehicles during periods in which the parallel I-20 bridge — now the only way for vehicles to cross the river at Vicksburg

“If the I-20 bridge is down, how are you going to move ambulances across? Are you going to make them go through Greenville or Natchez?” said Carlisle, who has worked for almost 37 years at the mobile-home supply company LaSalle Bristol and served as a school board member from 1987 until 2002.

In other action Monday, supervisors approved Lauderdale’s nomination of former Vicksburg Mayor Joe Loviza to the District 4 spot on the county’s Parks and Recreation Commission.

Loviza, an educator and college administrator before becoming mayor in 1993, is an avid sportsman whose term in office saw the city expand its recreational facilities with several new baseball and softball fields.

“I’m just elated that Joe is willing to serve,” Lauderdale said.

Members of the parks and recreation board are paid $100 per month and named to the panel by supervisors to terms that run concurrent with those of county board members. The commission’s duties include overseeing the Clear Creek golf course in Bovina as well as some county-owned soccer fields.

In addition to Loviza, supervisors also approved the reappointments of District 2’s L.T. Walker, District 3’s Elijah Johnson Jr. and District 5’s Jimmy Harrison.

District 1 Supervisor David McDonald said he intends to renominate his appointee, Don Biedenharn, but will hold off until discussing the matter with Biedenharn this week.