$90,000 approved for restoring, replacing markers in city, park

Published 1:01 pm Tuesday, March 30, 2010

About $90,000 unspent in a 1995 state appropriation of $250,000 for work on the Mississippi Monument in the Vicksburg National Military Park will remain available for local use in the latest version of Senate Bill 2844.

When written, the original bill limited the funds to the federal preserve’s monument to Mississippi soldiers. A $1 million restoration was undertaken in 2001, mostly using private and federal funds raised over a 13-year period.

Conferees on S.B. 2844, including Sen. Briggs Hopson, R-Vicksburg, and Rep. George Flaggs, D-Vicksburg, agreed to allow the balance be held in escrow by the state Department of Archives and History. It could be spent on an ongoing effort to restore and replace metal markers or “any other landmarks” in the park or in the city.

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Any project would be subject to approval by the National Park Service and the Friends of Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign, according to the bill, which awaits the signature of Gov. Haley Barbour.

Metal portions of the Mississippi Monument, which has been in the park since 1909, were pitted and eroded before the restoration.

Other bills of local interest before committees include:

• House Bill 1732 and Senate Bill 3193, sponsored by the local delegation of Flaggs, Hopson and Rep. Alex Monsour, R-Vicksburg, each of which authorizes Warren County supervisors to contribute up to $103,500 to nine local nonprofit agencies.

Using tax revenue for purposes such as purely charitable donations is normally illegal. Warren County supervisors have routinely sought special permission to make such payments, although the amount requested this year reflects across-the-board cuts. The final allocations may end up being less because of overruns already evident in this year’s spending plan, supervisors have said. Both versions are before the Local and Private Committees in each chamber after passing the House 111-6 and the Senate 52-0.

• House Bill 1739 and Senate Bill 3198, which would enable the City of Vicksburg to contribute in-kind maintenance services to Beulah Cemetery, a private graveyard. The bill, submitted by Flaggs, would allow community services or inmate labor to be used for such maintenance. Each is before the Local and Private committees. Flaggs has said be may seek, as he has in the past, bond money for land stabilization work in the historic cemetery.

• Senate Bill 3200, by Hopson, which authorizes Issaquena County to issue bonds to participate in placing electricity-producing turbines off barges in the Mississippi River. The bill is before the House Local and Private and Ways and Means committees, having unanimously passed the Senate. It allows the county to issue revenue bonds to finance the project and to form a nonprofit corporation to carry it out.

Issaquena County has an agreement with Louisiana-based MARMC Enterprises to share power sales from a pair of 5-megawatt turbines proposed in the river near Fitler Bend and Addie. Revenue estimates on those sites and Free Flow’s are speculative, though officials in Issaquena have quoted figures in the millions.