Move cautiously on rec complex decision

Published 12:01 am Sunday, May 15, 2011

Will Vicksburg ever get a modern recreation sports complex?

After eight years and more than $1.7 million spent on a proposed recreation complex off Fisher Ferry Road, city officials are mulling a proposal to offer the land for sale to use as a county jail.

Little doubt exists that the county is in need of a new jail. The 1906 structure on Grove and Cherry streets is too small and too antiquated. A proposed $20 million jail would have 350 beds — almost double the current jail — on a parcel of land of about 20 acres.

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Similarly, Vicksburg needs a modern recreation complex. Attracting youth baseball and softball tournaments, adult softball and soccer tournaments is an economic boon to the county. The current rec complex at Halls Ferry Park is, like the jail, too small and antiquated.

After purchasing the land in 2003 for $325,000, the city has spent more than $1.7 million on improvements. Construction was halted in 2006 when $3.7 million earmarked for the rec complex was re-allocated, correctly, to rebuild the bridge at Clark and Washington streets.

City officials have lobbied federal officials to reimburse the bridge costs and replenish the rec complex funding. It has not worked.

Warren County District 1 Supervisor David McDonald said he would listen to the offer to locate the jail off Fisher Ferry. Current laws mandate that the jail be built in the city limits, but if a suitable alternative is found in the county, supervisors might request an exception.

Officials now must sort through mounds of paperwork and fine print to see if the proposal to buy the Fisher Ferry land is even an option.

Then the hard work begins.

Either abandon the investment in the rec complex, or find a suitable tract of land in the county for a jail.

It’s sure to get interesting.