Tunica travelers discover ‘a lot of positives’ in trip

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 19, 2009

“A lot of positives” came from a trip to Tunica with the police chief and chief of staff to attend U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson’s Congressional Black Caucus Institute Annual Policy & Issues Conference, Vicksburg Mayor Paul Winfield said Tuesday.

“We got a lot of positive feedback on a number of issues,” Winfield said.

Aside from sitting in on educational policy forums, Winfield said he learned how the city may be able to secure more stimulus funds and met with business representatives who are considering moving to Vicksburg.

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“There’s a real positive buzz going on about Vicksburg, and a number of companies are interested in relocating here,” the mayor said. “We also made some significant contacts with entities already doing business in our city that we haven’t reached out to in the past.” 

The mayor, Police Chief Walter Armstrong and Chief of Staff Kenya Burks returned from the four-day conference Sunday. The city picked up the tab for the officials’ trip, including travel and lodging expenses and the $300-per-attendee registration fee.

“We’re looking to follow up this week on some possible stimulus funding we may be able to get through Homeland Security for some new equipment,” Armstrong said. “There was a large number of law enforcement officers there from Mississippi and outside the state, and we had a number of different workshops to attend each day — workshops on school violence and health care, things like that. If we can benefit from the grant opportunities… it will have been well worth it.”

The police department recently learned it will receive $508,364 in federal stimulus to hire four officers via the COPS program. 

Winfield said he was also able to secure a meeting with Sen. Roger Wicker next week to discuss how to get the Clark Street bride project moving. The bridge on Washington Street has been closed since January, and the project to replace the 80-year-old structure with a tunnel has yet to get under contract after bids came in at $9 million to $10 million — double initial estimates — this spring. 

“We have got to get some money to get that going,” Winfield said.

The city has been scrambling to look for additional funding for the project since the spring. It set aside $5 million of a $16.9 million bond issue in 2006 for the project, which is being administered and overseen by Kansas City Southern. The Federal Railroad Administration is to reimburse the city $4 million of the cost of the tunnel.

The mayor said he and the two others who attended the caucus will be working up a formal report on the trip.


Contact Steve Sanoski at ssanoski@vicksburgpost.com