Fisher Ferry land would be great for ERDC, Flaggs says

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, April 9, 2014

By John Surratt

and Danny Barrett Jr.

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 Mayor George Flaggs believes the city’s 210-acre Fisher Ferry property is a good location for expanding one of the city’s major employers. 

Flaggs said Monday he would like to see the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Research and Development Center take over the property.

“I would hope that ERDC would tune in (take a look at the property), because it would be a great opportunity for ERDC to come in and develop that due to their expansion,” he said. “We would love to see the federal government come in and purchase that or make us a deal. We’re trying to accommodate ERDC and be a part of its vision and its expansion.” The Fisher Ferry property, he said, would be an ideal site for expansion or to relocate some of ERDC’s civilian contractors.

“That’s a great location, and if (ERDC Director) Dr. (Jeffery) Holland is listening, I’d love to come talk with you,” he said.

Flaggs’ comments came moments before the board approved a resolution putting the Fisher Ferry property, which was once considered as a site for a sports complex, up for sale for 90 days to determine if there is an interest among developers for the project.

According to the resolution, developers interested in the property must give their plans for the property and describe how the project will promote and encourage development and improvement in the community.

The city will get two appraisals for the property and the prospective buyer must agree not to pay less than the average of the two appraisals plus ½ of the appraisal cost, and agree to deposit half of the appraisal cost when they enter into an agreement to get the appraisals. The buyer must also agree to a quiet zone between the property and adjacent St. Michael’s Catholic Church.

Last week, the Mississippi Legislature set aside $1 million of the $23 million appropriated for the Mississippi Development Authority for the Corps’ research and development arm. Senate Bill 2881 provides the money for ERDC’s research and development opportunities in science and technology initiatives.

The money could be used for ERDC’s emerging Center for Engineered Resilient Systems program, state Sen. Briggs Hopson III said Monday.

“The hope is that it will spin off some real, high-tech jobs (in the private sector) and provide some unique opportunities,” Hopson said.

The city in 2003 bought a 210-acre tract on Fisher Ferry Road for a sports complex for $325,000. City officials abandoned the project in 2009 after spending an additional $2.7 million for preliminary plans, engineering and dirt work.

The site was considered unsuitable because the property, including the access route, was in a flood zone.

In 2007, the city board hired USA Partners Sports Alliance of Jacksonville, Fla., for $250,000 to determine the feasibility of a proposed $25 million sports complex at Halls Ferry Park, including Bazinsky Field, proposed by the Aquila Group of Vicksburg. It would have included baseball and softball fields and related amenities, a water park, a baseball stadium/ballpark and facilities for golf, soccer, volleyball, tennis and other activities. The Aquila Group would lead the construction and management of the fields and sports facilities.

The project died after a study by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality found the site was not suitable because part of Halls Ferry Park was built on what was once the city’s landfill.

Under an agreement between the city and USA Partners, which was hired after the Aquila Group approached the city, the company would return the study costs to the city if the complex did not materialize. The deal fell apart and the matter remains tied up in the Florida court system.