Winfield is ‘surprised’ VCVB might ditch depot

Published 11:43 am Thursday, September 1, 2011

Vicksburg Mayor Paul Winfield said Wednesday that he was surprised at a decision by the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors that might lead to the agency’s backing out of its agreement to move into the old Levee Street Depot.

“I’m confused about the VCVB,” Winfield said at Wednesday’s meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. “I didn’t know they had a problem until I read it in the paper. If they had a problem, I wish they would have come to the city and discussed it.”

The VCVB’s board decided last week after an executive session to meet with an attorney to discuss its options regarding the building. Chairman Annette Kirklin said the board has several issues concerning the depot, but would give no specifics because they were discussed in the executive session.

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She said Wednesday that board members were to meet today with Vicksburg Buildings and Inspection Department Director Victor Gray-Lewis and other city officials at the depot to discuss the building. Gray-Lewis is the city’s project director for the depot restoration.

Winfield’s comments came as the City Board discussed two supplemental agreements to the city’s contract with Kenneth R. Thompson Jr., Builder to repair flood-damaged areas in the 105-year-old depot. The project is expected to be completed by Oct. 5. Thompson is restoring the depot.

He said the board pushed the project along at the request of the VCVB and Vicksburg Main Street, both of which have signed letters of understanding to lease office space in the depot for $500 a month once it is finished. The VCVB also agreed to contribute $150,000 toward the city’s match of a $1.65 million Mississippi Department of Transportation grant to renovate the building.

Kirklin said last week that the VCVB has not signed a lease with the city and no money has changed hands. Main Street chairman Ronnie Bounds said Main Street is keeping its commitment.

“I was taken aback (by the VCVB’s action),” Winfield said. “I feel this administration has taken this project and moved it along.”

The board Wednesday approved a supplemental agreement with Kenneth R. Thomspon estimated at $23,000 to repair damage to the depot from the 2011 flood.

The Mississippi River dumped 4 feet of water into the building as it reached record heights in Vicksburg, cresting at 57.1 feet on May 19, 14.1 feet above flood stage and 1.3 foot above the Great Flood of 1927.

The high water halted work on the depot, which became a national symbol of the flooding in Vicksburg. Work resumed in April.

Gray-Lewis said the supplement covers interior work in the building that was not covered under the original agreement. He said another amendment estimated at $33,000 is expected in the near future to cover damage that was not covered by Thompson’s insurance. He said the city will submit the bills from both contract amendments to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for reimbursement.