Battle sites, auditorium transfers move in Legislature

Published 10:16 am Thursday, February 6, 2014

A proposed transfer of 12 tracts of state-owned land that figured prominently in the Vicksburg Campaign during the Civil War and a separate bill to transfer ownership of Vicksburg Auditorium back to the city have passed legislative committees.

House Bill 822, sponsored by state Rep. Tom Weathersby, R-Florence, has passed the chamber’s Public Property Committee. It would allow the state to donate more than 400 acres in and around key battle sites in and around Raymond and Port Gibson to the National Park Service. The tracts include the Champion Hill battle site and the Coker House, near Edwards, and the Shaifer House, in Claiborne County. Currently, the sites are maintained by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

 A parallel bill to the same effect filed in the state Senate by Sen. Briggs Hopson III, R-Vicksburg, died in committee.If signed by Gov. Phil Bryant, the bill would take care of half an effort afoot in Congress for years to authorize the park service to acquire more than 10,000 acres associated with the Champion Hill, Raymond and Port Gibson battlefields. Bills to that effect have stalled in committee in each chamber.

Senate Bill 2341, another Hopson bill, passed the Senate Public Property Committee. It transfers about 0.6 acres of property at the Vicksburg Auditorium to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. The bill moves to the House.

The Monroe street arena was built in 1956 and deeded to the state in 1985 when the city sought $1.5 million in bond money for upgrades. The agreement expired in 2010, but no transfer occurred. A transfer now would speed up renovations such as a wheelchair ramp, city officials have said.