VHA volunteers insulted after doing jobs faithfully

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 1, 2009

In all the discussion of the Vicksburg Housing Authority by The Vicksburg Post, nowhere was it mentioned that commissioners (four of whom were replaced Monday) devote their time as a civic duty and no compensation is involved. To anyone with a discerning mind it is obvious that there is more going on here than meets the eye.

Police Chief Tommy Moffett appeared before the board in an obvious attempt to insinuate himself into a VHA personnel matter. He was advised by the board’s attorney that his comments would be confined to police matters. The chief then rehashed the charges against former VHA employee Charles Jones. The Vicksburg Post correctly reported his comments and the exchange among the commissioners, Chief Moffett and Mr. James Stirgus Sr., VHA executive director.

What is being ignored is the presumption of innocence of Charles Jones. Mr. Jones may have had $80,000 worth of merchandise in his house when arrested, but rest assured all of it did not come from the VHA. The commissioners have requested, on more than one occasion, that Chief Moffett provide an itemized inventory of items confiscated, and he has not complied with the requests. From his description of the items discovered in Mr. Jones’ home, they are tools that can be bought in any hardware store in Vicksburg, and they are not tools used by VHA in its maintenance program. If Chief Moffett has such overwhelming evidence, why hasn’t Mr. Jones been charged with felony theft?

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As for the chief’s assertions that Mr. Stirgus was providing the board misinformation and the board’s being out of touch, the question should be asked, “Was Mr. Charles Abraham misinformed and out of touch?” He was the board chairman and had been associated with the VHA for over 40 years until his death in December 2008. Was he out of touch? We think not.

Mayor Laurence Leyen’s handling of this affair is not without blame. He was aware that four of the appointments, including Mr. Abraham’s, had expired. He did not have the courtesy or courage to notify these commissioners that they were being replaced. Private citizens do not like to have their names bandied about in newspaper accounts, especially when some of the facts are distorted or obscure.

As stated before, there is more going on here than meets the eye. The VHA commissioners have oversight over the executive director. They assure that occupants of housing authority homes have safe, clean and affordable housing. The executive director is in charge of day-to-day operations. As pointed out by Charlie Mitchell in his Vicksburg Post column, also Monday, this is being done. Mr. Stirgus has brought the VHA monthly rent collection from $25,000 in 1988 to $85,000 currently. At the same time units have been brought up to standards and are well-maintained.

Jim Stirgus is a decent and honorable man. He has devoted his life to public service. He has his faults as all of us do, but faced with difficult choices you can bet he will always do the right thing.

We commissioners who have been replaced are of no consequence. What is important is the VHA and its tenants. We wish the new board well.

David Speyerer

Former Commissioner

Vicksburg Housing Authority


Bus usage authorized?

I continually see Vicksburg Warren School District buses parked at malls and other places of business. I usually just grumble to myself that something is wrong with this picture. Well, I just saw a school bus parked at Memorial Plaza shopping center and the driver was loading groceries into the bus.

Since I and most other taxpayers are footing the bill for these buses, I finally decided to speak up.

Is it wrong for a bus driver to use a bus for personal business? I’ll bet it is.

If it is not, per contract with the driver and bus owner, it should be disallowed and the driver charged with the cost per-mile for the operation of the bus.

I would think that would be serious money, considering the price of the bus and operating costs.

James Blakely


Be fair with motorists

I work, shop and travel through Vicksburg regularly.

I had planned on sending a submission when I came across Mr. Doug Upchurch’s letter some weeks ago. I, at the time, was going through my own legal battle over a citation I received in the exact same area of U.S. 61 South as the couple he described. (A sign says the speed limit is 45 miles per hour when the light is flashing. When it is not flashing, the speed limit is also 45 miles per hour.)

That sign is in direct contradiction to thinking that the area would be 45 throughout and for almost five miles of the northbound lanes and through three major intersections. There are no enforceable black and white speed limit signs of any kind from just south of Dollar General on U.S. 61 South to well down Interstate 20.

I may not be thrilled with paying a speeding ticket, but I will, of course, make whatever sacrifices necessary to pay if I am in violation of a posted speed limit.

However, when there are no posted limits, most of us who have driver’s licenses refer to the simple rules our little driver’s manuals taught us: 55 on a two-lane highway and 65 on a four-lane.

What is going on here can be reduced to one simple phrase: revenue generation. And while I am aware we are knee-deep in a recession and that running a city is far from cheap, are our elected officials and leaders aware that the majority of the citizens of Warren County and the surrounding areas were already living at or below the poverty level before the onset of the recession?

When you decide to generate your revenue from the already desperately poor, you have the responsibility of ensuring that every citation is spot-on. This does not include lowering the speed limit in order to issue a higher fine, as in the case of the elderly couple, or taking advantage of areas of highway that are known to generate confusion.

These officers are dealing with the general public when they are issuing these citations. Having them issue questionable citations when any number of unquestionable citations could be issued in much more dangerous areas only encourages disrespect and resentment which may result in more dangerous or threatening conditions for the officers.

Instead, let’s give these truly fine people the opportunity to do what, most likely, they joined the force to do: patrol our streets and fight the serious number of crimes we face.

And finally, I ask that the officers obey the traffic laws they are paid to enforce when they are not going to a call. Doing so is not only supported by the existing laws, but is leading by example.

When the public feels they are truly cared for and about by law enforcement, a sense of community and mutual respect is renewed, which leads to self-policing and safer driving conditions for everyone.

Alice Cessna