Two big projects should be on tap for county|Our opinion

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 28, 2008

With the approach of 2009, two big grant-funded projects should be on tap for local governments.

The first, for which preliminaries are almost done, is a new, wider and stronger bridge leading to the E.W. Haining Industrial Center and Port of Vicksburg.

Supervisors and the Warren County Port Commission have taken the lead on getting this $10 million project under way.

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Although still called the harbor “project,” by locals, the slack-water channel and adjacent sites completed decades ago — and now served by a widened and deepened Yazoo Diversion Canal — provide hundreds of jobs and are a center of industrial activity, including shipping and receiving.

Elected and appointed officials have shown foresight in landing a share of Katrina-related federal dollars to replace the bridge. It will be a 30-month project, but will assure safe ingress and egress for decades to come.

The second project, also funded with Katrina dollars, is a $3.9 million “makeover” of the open ditches and creeks that remain in Vicksburg.

After applying for the money at the urging of District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon, supervisors have shown little enthusiasm for accepting the cash or responsibility for this work. They want the City of Vicksburg to “take the lead.” Part of this can be traced to the persistent attitude held by the county board that the City of Vicksburg should conduct all infrastructure work inside the corporate limits. This attitude persists despite the fact that municipal residents not only vote in supervisor elections, they pay 60 percent of the property taxes in the supervisors’ budgets. The “road money” collected on municipal tracts is paid over to the city, supervisors say, and that absolves them.

The further complicating factor is that officials at City Hall and those at the Warren County Courthouse take a competitive, as opposed to a cooperative, stance. Not only does Selmon not want the city to get credit for the drainage work, Mayor Laurence Leyens says the city has a full plate and doesn’t want to manage the project or accept the expense of continuing maintenance.

Admittedly, the federal money comes with lots of red tape. But at the end of a long process, hundreds of Vicksburg homeowners would have their property improved (and valued higher for taxes) and everything from mosquito control to flash flooding would be eased.

At this juncture, it appears the bridge project is on go — but the drainage grant will be left on the table.

That’s too bad. Both projects would lead to an improved community for everyone — and that should be the priority for both local governments.